March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month: Q&A with Dr. Daniele Saltarelli
- Posted on: Mar 12 2018
More than 2,000 people each day suffer eye injuries in the workplace. Ten to twenty percent of those injuries will cause temporary or permanent vision loss.
What kinds of eye injuries in the workplace are more common and what are the causes of these injuries?
The most common workplace injuries we encounter is corneal foreign bodies, corneal abrasions/lacerations, and chemical splash injuries. People working in trades like metals (welding and grinders), as well as mechanics and landscapers have had injuries where embedded pieces of metal that leach rust into the cornea are very common. Also common are chemicals in the eyes with lab workers and chemists, and people who work in the cleaning industry.
How can people project against eye injuries?
Protective eye wear (safety glasses) is the key to protection. They don’t have to be expensive either. As long as they are labeled “shatter resistant” and provide good eye coverage. People in the trade industry should get in the habit of wearing protective eye wear full-time. Factory workers, machinists, mechanics, and chemists should seek eye wear with protective side/top shields (goggle-type safety glasses) that project better against projectiles/splashes/debris from the side. It is also important to be aware of the location of any eyewash station (if available). If not, request that your employer maintain a supply of eyewash in the event of an emergency, especially if you’re working with or around chemical agents.
If someone feels like something is stuck in their eye, when is it time to see a doctor?
If you feel like something is stuck in your eye, the first response should be to flush the eye with eyewash if available, or clean, running water if eyewash is not available. Especially in the case of chemical injuries, one should immediately flush with copious amounts of fluid. If that does not resolve the foreign body sensation, or if there is concern for residual chemical, one should seek immediate medical attention. The longer a piece of metal stays on/in the cornea, the deeper it tends to embed, the more rust it leaches, and the greater likelihood of an inflammatory response—all this prolongs recovery and increases the likelihood of scarring. The same true for chemicals, the longer they remain in contact with the eye, the more damage done.