NEI Focuses on Occupational Eye Injuries
Each May as part of Healthy Vision Month, the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health encourages Americans to make vision a health priority. This year's focus is on eye injuries in the work place.
Schmalfeldt: Each May as part of Healthy Vision Month, the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health encourages Americans to make vision a health priority. This year's focus is on eye injuries in the work place. Every day, more than two-thousand workers in the United States receive medical treatment because of work-related eye injuries with more than 800-thousand eye injuries occurring every year. Rosemary Janiszewski is the director of the National Eye Health Education Program at the NEI. She talked about what NEI is doing to reduce the frequency of occupational eye injuries.
Janiszewski: We have developed a website for primarily employers to go to, to get information on what they can do with their employees to increase awareness. We've developed bulletins that they can share with their employees on the importance of protective eyewear and basic safety habits in the workplace. We've developed public service announcements that can be used. We are working with one retail outlet to incorporate eye safety messages on their cash receipts, in their circulars. We've developed giveaways for their employees, such as magnets they can put at home. We've got a cute little sticker that people can put on their hard hats or on their toolboxes, which are just a great way to remind people to use protective eyewear in the workplace. So we have a lot of different resources for both the employers and the employees.
Schmalfeldt: Doctor Larry Jackson is chief of the injury surveillance team at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said there are several steps employers can take to reduce the number of eye injuries at the workplace.
Jackson: There are three parts to what an employer should do to prevent occupational eye injuries. And the first one is, they need to do a hazard assessment. In doing that assessment, they're looking for the types of hazards that actually occur there, such as flying particles or welding light or chemical exposure. And the second part of it is they need to do a couple of different things to prevent the injuries from ever occurring. The first one is use engineering controls; replacing a broken or missing machine guard, or it might be routing work site traffic around an eye hazard area. It's very common for coworkers or bystanders to have an eye injury due to nearby hazards. The next part of that protection effort is the second line of defense, and that's employers need to have safety eye protection available for their workers and it needs to be the right kind for the task they're working at. And it's actually an OSHA requirement that they provide that at no cost to their employees. In line with that, they also need to make sure that it's worn. They need to have a written policy. They also need to enforce their policy. But the real key to get compliance is making sure they have eyewear that fits, that's comfortable, that workers actually think is effective, that has good fog or scratch protection and so on. And the last part of that is making sure there's compliance on a daily basis. It's very common for us to hear stories of workers who say, "Well, I just wanted to do a quick job. I didn't think I needed eye protection, and so I left it off." Or, "I didn't have it at the place." And so they really do need to make sure that workers have eye protection all the time. We like to suggest that workers have it from the time they step on the site. So if you're at a construction area, put your safety eye protection on at the same time you put your hard hat on. If you do all three of those things, then you have made a good start towards reducing eye injuries.
Schmalfeldt: For more information about occupational eye injuries, visit the website www.healthyvision2010.nei.nih.gov/hvm. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Rosemary Janiszewski, Dr. Larry Jackson
Topic: Vision Health