Eye Injuries In The Workplace

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported a surprising statistic, that every single day, around 2000 Americans suffer a job-related injury to one or both eyes and require medical treatment. It isn’t just injuries that can cause damage to an eye either, infectious diseases or repetitive exposure to certain lights or radiation can also cause harm.

Common Causeseye exam after an injury

Damage to the eye can be caused by:

  • Wood Chips
  • Cement Chips
  • Metal Slivers
  • Nails
  • UV Radiation
  • Chemical Exposure
  • Infectious Disease
  • Fire / Sparks
  • A Blow To The Eye

If left untreated, any of the resulting medical conditions can become extremely painful and leave a patient with reduced or total vision loss, or even result in a total loss of the eye.  

How To Recognize Damage To The Eye

Knowing the signs of an eye injury or illness is very important because the sooner that a condition is diagnosed and treated, the less likely the patient is to lose their vision or eye. Symptoms may include:

  • Changes in vision
  • Reduced movement in the eye
  • Bleeding in any part of the eye
  • A change in pupil size or shape
  • Sensitivity to light
  • An inability to close or open the eyelids completely
  • Swelling around the eye socket
  • A feeling of something foreign in the eye
  • Constant tearing

Types of Eye Injuries

Many injured workers suffer from common injuries such as:

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the cornea. Typically this type of injury is caused when they are poked in the eye with a foreign object.

Corneal Ulcer

Many times, if a small abrasion or other injury to the eye is left untreated, it can develop into a sore or ulcer on the cornea. This condition is very painful and without medical attention can result in blindness or the loss of the eye.


Hyphema is bleeding in a specific part of the eye, in the anterior chamber of the eye between the cornea and the iris, often caused by a blunt force trauma. This medical condition needs immediate medical attention so that doctors can save both the victim’s vision and eye.


Both excessive heat and chemical exposure can result in a burn to the eye. Chemicals don’t even need to be directly splashed into the eye, simply rubbing a hand which has come into contact with the chemical in the eye can result in serious damage.

Penetrating Objects

Wood chips, metal, and other random objects can easily penetrate the eye. Victims should never try to remove the object themselves as it may cause additional damage. Covering the eye with a cup until help is obtained is an excellent way to prevent further injury.

Traumatic Iritis

This is when there is inflammation in the colored part of the eye, usually due to a blow from a blunt object. If the condition isn’t treated as soon as possible, there is a chance that permanent damage will occur and the victim’s vision will be impacted.

Common Eye Injuries In The Workplace-01

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OSHA Safety Standards

Per OSHA standards, employers are required to provide employees working in certain industries with proper eye protection. The suitable eyewear varies from job to job and is determined based on the types of hazards that one might expect to encounter while at work. For example, while simple, open-air glasses may be enough to protect a construction worker who is cutting wood with a saw, it is not suitable for a welder who needs a full face mask.

The Different Types Of Eye Protection

There are several types of materials used today for protective glasses, including:a healed eye injury

Glass Lenses

Glass is not easily scratched, can be specially made to have a corrective prescription, and can be used around harsh chemicals without damage.  Larger glasses, however, can become quite heavy and uncomfortable. These glasses can also fog quite easily, obstructing the wearer’s vision.

Plastic Lenses

While plastic lenses are light and comfortable and is less likely to fog, it does have its downsides. Plastic is not as scratch resistant as glass and cannot be used around certain chemicals.

Polycarbonate Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses are lightweight, unlikely to fog up, can protect a user against welding splatter, and is stronger and for impact resistant than both plastic and glass. However, these lenses are also not as scratch resistant as glass.

What To Do If You Injure Your Eye At Workstain applied to eye to look for damage

If you or a loved one suffered an eye injury at work, seeking medical attention as quickly as possible is the first thing that you should do.

Once you have received the proper medical attention, document the accident. Inform your employer, in writing, about what caused the accident and the injuries that were sustained. Be sure to take photographs of the issue that resulted in the accident as well as your injuries. If anyone witnessed your accident, request their contact information.

While it may be possible that all of your financial and medical needs will be met through a  workers’ compensation claim, many victims find that they need to pursue a third party complaint in order to get what they need. In these cases, a well-documented accident will ensure that you get the maximum amount possible in compensation.