OHS Canada Magazine

Primary and Secondary Defences Against Eye Injuries

May 22, 2019
By Jean Lian

Eye injuries cover a gamut of afflictions that range from computer vision syndrome to penetration by foreign objects like flying debris from a moving tool in a workshop. According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, more than 10,000 Ontarians have sustained eye injuries on the job since 2010, and the associated costs exceed $200 million.

Eye injuries not only severely compromise an injured worker’s daily functionality; it also results in loss of productivity and morale. According to the Government of Canada website, the most common hazards to the eyes and face are dust and dirt blown around by wind, tree branches, flying particles from drilling, cutting, digging and other similar operations, ultraviolet radiation from welding and electrical work, splashes, fibres from insulating materials such as fibreglass and irritants and corrosives.

The primary defence against eye injuries is to eliminate hazards at the source and follow good housekeeping practices, which include the following:

  • Use protective screens and wire mesh grids to protect yourself from flying particles
  • Install safety glass guards on machines to prevent injuries caused by flying chips or splashing liquids
  • Place moveable shields around grinders, lathes and other similar machines
  • Enclose sources of fine dusts, mists or vapours
  • Control dust and fumes using general or local ventilation systems
  • Isolate hazardous operations in separate areas
  • For outdoor work, damp down work areas and seal dusty surfaces

Wearing protective eyewear suited to the job is the secondary defence since most eye injuries can be prevented by using adequate shields and glasses. Examples include goggles, welding helmets, face shields and safety glasses. Safety glasses are made with tempered glass or polycarbonate lenses that are impact resistant and stronger than ordinary lenses. Their safety frames are also stronger than regular frames and are heat resistant to prevent the lenses from being pushed toward the eyes.

Good protective eyewear should be light and fit comfortably. It should not obstruct your field of vision and have the ability to block harmful radiation. They should also be well ventilated, have good optical quality and be scratch resistant.

Source: Government of Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada

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