Eye Safety Basics
Eye safety can be easily overlooked, sometimes to our own detriment and a lifetime of regret.
Imagine that yesterday you could see perfectly well, but after an accident, today you're only partially sighted to the extent that you can no longer drive or read. Your life has changed dramatically, never to be the same again.
Now imagine that you could have prevented all of this simply by wearing safety glasses or observing other eye safety rules.
Common Causes of Eye Injuries
According to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), an estimated 2.4 million eye injuries occur in the United States each year, and nearly 1 million Americans have lost some degree of eyesight from an eye injury.
Yet experts say wearing safety glasses and taking other common-sense precautions can prevent or reduce the severity of more than 90 percent of these eye injuries.
PBA says the most common agents of eye injuries at work include:
"Eye Safety At-a-Glance" has a list of recommended eyewear for various occupations, a comparison of safety lens materials and dos and don'ts of emergency eye care at work. From The Vision Council, with the American Society of Safety Engineers. Download it now.
Had a product-related eye injury? The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a website where you can submit reports of harm or risks of harm related to products. The site also lets you search for such reports, as well as product recalls. Learn more.
- Flying objects (bits of metal, glass, plastic)
- Air-blown and wind-blown particles (dust, wood, sand)
- Tools (screwdrivers, wrenches)
- Chemicals (gasoline, oil, solvents, acids)
- Harmful radiation (welding arcs, UV)
At home, household cleaners and chemicals are common causes of eye injuries. Other causes include:
- Eyelash curlers
- Mascara brushes and other cosmetic applicators
- Fingernails (such as when applying and removing contact lenses)
- Lawn, garden and hand tools (mowers, etc.)
- Air-blown and wind-blown particles
- Bungee cords
- Falls, bumping into walls, etc.
- Champagne corks
- Battery acid
- Toys and games with hard or sharp edges
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Blunt trauma (someone or something hitting your eye) causes many sports-related eye injuries. Besides another player's body, hand or finger, other causes of eye injuries during sports include:
- A ball or puck
- A stick, bat or racquet
- Wind-blown and airborne particles (sand, dirt)
- Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight
In most cases, simple precautions can help you prevent eye injuries at work, home and play.
Avoid distractions when doing anything that could potentially harm your eyes. Resist the temptation to "multi-task" when working with tools or other objects near your eyes. And always wear safety glasses, protective goggles or other sports eyewear for greater eye safety when the situation calls for it.
What to Do in Case of Eye Injury
Most eye doctors have emergency contact numbers for injuries that occur after normal business hours or on weekends.
Depending on the situation, your eye doctor may want you to flush your eye with water or saline solution prior to your office visit. Or he or she may recommend you immediately go to the hospital emergency room.
If you wear contact lenses, tell the doctor, who will advise you about whether to remove them or leave them in.
If you work with chemicals, your workplace should have a sink area where you can flush your eyes with water if a chemical splashes or otherwise invades your eyes. Flush your eyes for several minutes to dilute and rinse out any chemicals that may have contacted your eyes.
When in doubt, treat all eye injuries as potential emergencies, and contact or visit an eye doctor immediately if you have urgent eye safety concerns.
Remember, you have only one pair of eyes. Take good care of them!
About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care. Connect with Dr. Heiting via Google+.
[Page updated March 23, 2015]