Did you know that every year nearly three quarter of a million Canadians sustain an eye injury that requires medical attention? Many of these injuries could be prevented by something as simple as wearing protective eye wear. A CNIB study just completed surveyed nearly 5,000 people at random across Canada and showed that 2.09% of these people had had an eye injury in the past year that required medical attention. The study also showed that approximately one quarter of all eye injuries had resulted in taking time off from work or school.
When the eye injuries were analyzed further, it was found that the number of injuries occurring at home and at work was approximately the same, together accounting for over 2/3 of all injuries. Only 8% of injuries were due to sport, probably because many people are now protecting their eyes while playing sports. But it appears that we don’t protect our eyes to the same extent when doing things around the home or at work. The CNIB study also showed that office workers and factory workers sustained about the same number of eye injuries, indicating that not all eye injuries occur on the factory floor or on construction sites.
So what is the one thing we can do to minimize eye injuries? Wear eye protection when working at home or in the workplace.
There are many types of eye goggles or safety glasses that you can wear to protect your eyes. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provides a full listing and a description of the best safety glasses and eye protection for different occupations. This information can be accessed at the following link: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/ppe/glasses.html
The best safety glasses are those that are made with polycarbonate lenses and are Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified. Many safety glasses are available as sunglasses with the ability to absorb ultraviolet light. This means that you have the opportunity to wear these glasses outdoors to protect your eyes from injury while at the same time protecting them from long-term damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Make sure that the sunglasses are designed to block more than 99% of ultraviolet light (both UVA and UVB). It will usually say this on the label. Sometimes the label just says “UV 400”.
Also, make sure that your safety glasses fit properly and take care of them by cleaning them and getting a new pair if they become so scratched that your vision is impaired.
Eye Injuries in the Home:
The CNIB study showed that the same number of eye injuries occur in the home as in the workplace. What are the causes of some of these injuries?
The Canadian Ophthalmological Society has the following suggestions for preventing eye injuries at home:
Ensure all spray nozzles are pointed away from you before you press them.
Read instructions carefully when using harsh chemicals and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Wear goggles where appropriate.
Use grease shields on frying pans.
Use opaque goggles to avoid burns from sun lamps.
Be especially careful when using "S" hooks.
Point the sparkling wine or champagne bottle away from you. An eye injury is nothing to celebrate.
The Canadian Ophthalmological Society also provides recommendations on protecting your eyes around the car; when jump starting your car; and when using fireworks. This information is available at the following link: http://eyesite.ca/english/public-information/eye-safety/index.htm
I would add the warning that it is essential to wear eye protection whenever doing any work with tools around the house e.g. hammering a nail, using a lathe, or an electric saw or screwdriver. Pieces of wood, metal or plaster can so easily shoot into your eye.
Eye Injuries in the Yard:
Many eye injuries occur while working in the yard, by debris thrown up by mowers or by scratches from branches while trimming the hedge. Wearing safety glasses that double as sunglasses will provide you with maximum protection from these hazards while working in your backyard.
Eye Injuries in the Workplace:
Most workplaces have strict protocols for eye protection for certain occupations e.g. welding, laboratory use of chemicals etc.
Make sure you follow these protocols and ALWAYS use your safety glasses or eye protection. If you’re a welder make sure you wear your eye protection rather than just holding it. Harmful radiation can enter they eye from the side of a loosely held welding helmet. If you’re a chemist, wear safety goggles every time you work with chemicals, not just during the week after one of your colleagues had an accident or a fire.
CNIB Eye Safety Workshop:
In order to improve levels of awareness about eye safety in the workplace, CNIB offers workshops on eye safety to employers and employees in industries across the country. More information is available at the following link: http://www.cnib.ca/en/your-eyes/safety/at-work/Pages/eye-safety-workshops.aspx
Now that you are practising eye safety, make sure that those around you are doing so as well, both at home and in the workplace. We all have a role to play with respect to reducing the significant social and personal costs associated with eye injuries.