Eye injuries represent the third most frequent work injury in Vermont. The Vermont Workers' Compensation Division receives approximately 1400 reports of eye injuries each year. Of these, roughly 250 eye injury claims annually result in lost time from work. Many eye injuries result from a foreign body entering the eye, causing injury and temporary problems. Fortunately, few of these injuries cause permanent problems. We receive only ten or fewer permanent partial impairment agreements for eye injuries each year.
Prevention It is important with any work injury to consider how the injury may be minimized or prevented. Eye injuries are easily prevented. Safety goggles and safety glasses are a sure fire way to reduce eye injuries. Employers may be reluctant to expend much money on personal protective equipment, but safety goggles and glasses are surprisingly inexpensive. Safety goggles or glasses that meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute*) *standards are available for as little as $2.50. If you buy glasses or goggles in bulk they may cost less. Prescription safety lenses or glasses are also available but carry a steeper price tag.
Availability - Function Making safety goggles or glasses available is the first step employers can take in ensuring their use. Current safety glasses and goggles come in all shapes and sizes. There are basic plastic safety goggles which can be worn over regular glasses. There are also more contemporary and streamlined glasses which resemble popular sunglasses. Numerous models and styles are available providing UV protection, colored lenses or tinting, safety straps, wraparound or extended lens protection, anti-fog capabilities and comfort modifications such as ergonomic nose pieces. Today's glasses and goggles provide protection, are comfortable and look good too.
Required VOSHA (Vermont Occupational Safety & Health) standards require that eye protection be provided whenever there is a potential for eye injury. This means that any time an employer has had an eye injury or can foresee even the possibility of an eye injury, eye protection in the form of safety goggles or glasses should be available and used. Foreign bodies in the eye are a frequent problem. Chemicals can also cause eye injury. Any employment that involves working with chemicals classified as "corrosive" requires that the employer have an eye wash station. An eye wash station may be established for a minimal cost.
Failure to use safety equipment – bar to workers' compensation An employee who suffers a work injury due to their failure to use safety equipment may have their workers' compensation claim denied. The employer claiming such a defense would be required to provide evidence of availability, monitoring and enforcement of the safety equipment.
Eye injuries are frequently minor but they represent a significant number of work injuries. The frequency of these injuries and the ease with which they can be prevented highlights the need for more vigilant use of safety goggles and glasses, increased availability of safety equipment and increased monitoring and enforcement of their use in our work places.
* ANSI standard for eye protection requires glasses to withstand the impact of a quarter inch steel ball traveling 150 feet per second.