Workplace Eye Safety: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Eye Health // News // Patient Care // Mar 14 2018
Eye injuries in the workplace are a serious concern. Nearly 2,000 people in the U.S. injure their eyes while working every day. Jennifer Larson, MD, chief resident with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (DOVS), notes that most of the patients she encounters with workplace eye injuries were indeed using preventative eye safety measures at the time of the accident.
“It’s a good sign,” Dr. Larson notes, “that many workers are educated on preventative measures and have resources like safety glasses and eyewash stations available to them in the workplace. It means that the damage is typically fairly minor.”
For example, a patient recently called in because he experienced a chemical burn that caused skin changes around his eyelids, a loss of eyelashes, and blurry vision. The UW Health eye care team immediately suspected that the damage could be severe. When the patient arrived, however, they were relieved to find that the eye was healthy and the damage was very minimal. The patient had used an irrigation eyewash solution immediately after the incident. The irrigation solution can actually cause blurry vision after use. It was the best possible outcome.
Chemical injuries can cause severe long-term outcomes if not immediately addressed. Workplaces that require interaction with chemicals should have eyewash stations with irrigation solutions and safety glasses readily available. If chemicals enter the eye at home, Dr. Larson recommends using plain water, either from the sink or bottled water, as an eyewash solution. The eye should be irrigated for at least 20 minutes.
Foreign bodies, typically metallic in nature, are an even more common workplace eye injury than chemical burns. The concern with foreign bodies is the formation of scars after the particle has been removed. And, if the foreign body occurs due to a large amount of force, it may cause an open globe injury, one that disrupts the integrity of the outer membranes of the eye.
UW Health eye doctors are ready to assist with any specialized eye care or sight-saving services you may need. But it’s worth remembering that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure eyewash stations, safety glasses, and any other necessary prevention measures are easily accessible throughout your work area. At home, be prepared with simple safety glasses and a way to irrigate your eye if needed.