Thousands of people are blinded or suffer other preventable eye injuries in their workplaces each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says. Construction workers are especially vulnerable to eye injuries from flying debris at New York construction sites.
If you work in construction, you are no doubt familiar with the danger of nail guns, flying objects, tiny pieces of metal and chemical splashes. But construction worksite accidents are avoidable.
Employers should conduct an eye hazard assessment of the workplace and remove or reduce hazards. Most importantly, your employer should provide appropriate eye and face protection gear. A rinse or sterile solution should be on hand in case you get material in your eyes.
You can also take responsibility for your own eye safety by understanding the dangers at your workplace and using the eye protection your employer provides, keeping it in good condition, and replacing it when it becomes worn out or damaged.
Construction worksite eye hazards:
- Hammering, grinding, sanding and masonry work that produce particles.
- Chemicals that may lead to splashes.
- Wet or powdered cement that could cause chemical burns.
- Exposure to arcs and flashes when welding.
- Flying dust, concrete, metal and other particles stirred up during windy conditions.
- Falling or shifting debris, glass and construction materials.
- Smoke and noxious or poisonous gases.
Ways to reduce hazards:
- Use machine guards or screens to prevent particles from escaping into the environment.
- Declare certain hazardous areas off limits to those not assigned to work there.
- Use correct protective eyewear suitable for your particular work area.
Eye and face protection:
- Safety glasses provide minimal coverage and side protection to guard your eyes from flying particles or objects. Some styles also have brow protection along the top of the glasses.
- Goggles provide protection from high impact damage as well as dust and chemicals during tasks involving sawing, chipping, grinding, doing masonry work, using a nail gun, pouring cement, and working with chemicals. They come with direct venting and indirect venting. Goggles with indirect venting offers greater protection, but they often fog up. Use goggles when working with liquid or fine dust hazards.
- Face shields provide higher impact protection and protect your entire face. Always use your safety glasses and goggles when you wear a face shield because particles and chemicals can get around a face shield and into your eyes. Use a face shield when you are spraying, chipping, grinding or welding.
Eye protection must meet the OSHA requirement for Z87.1 certification by the American National Standards Institute. You can check out your own safety glasses by looking on a lens or frame for the Z87.1 designation.
Use care as you remove your safety equipment. Brush, shake or vacuum dust and debris from your hardhat, hair, forehead and top of your safety glasses or goggles. Don’t rub your eyes with dirty hands or clothing, and keep your equipment and eye wear clean.