In the time spent reading this sentence you’ve blinked once or twice and never even thought about it. You’re not alone; many of us don’t think twice about our eyes throughout the day, and as a result we may overlook a range of things that could harm them. Overlooking any risk factors at work or home, however, is a huge mistake.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “Eye injuries of all types occur at a rate of more than 2,000 per day. In particular, an estimated 1,000 eye injuries [per day] occur in American workplaces alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that almost 70% of the eye injuries studied occur from falling or flying objects, or sparks striking the eye.”
These statistics have led to July being recognized as Eye Injury Prevention Month, when we’re all asked to evaluate our environments and see if we’re protecting our eyes from the hazardous materials or situations we encounter. It’s not hard to do, either – there are just three safety steps to take to protect our eyes each day:
1. Wear the proper eye protection at work. Wearing the correct safety goggles for the work you’re doing is the easiest and simplest way to protect your eyesight; in fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “It is estimated that over 90% of eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear. The Occupational Safety Health Administration, OSHA, has standards that require employers to provide their workers with the appropriate eye protection.” You can read more about when to – and how to – protect your eyes at work here.
2. Wear proper eye protection at home, too. Many people think of eye injuries as a workplace injury, but the reality is that we can also damage our eyes at home. Children may get eye injuries while playing sports; chemicals in our garages or basements can get splashed into our eyes by mistake; and debris and other air-born irritants can cause trouble in the house or in our backyards. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services you “should always wear properly fitted eye protective gear, such as safety glasses with side protection/shields,” especially when you’re:
- Doing work that may produce particles, slivers, or dust from materials like wood, metal, plastic, cement, and drywall
- Hammering, sanding, grinding, or doing masonry work
- Working with power tools
- Working with chemicals, including common household chemicals like ammonia, oven cleaners, and bleach
- Using a lawnmower, riding mower, or other motorized gardening devices like string trimmers (also called “weed wacker” or “weed whip”)
- Working with wet or powdered cement
- Welding (which requires extra protection like a welding mask or helmet from sparks and UV radiation)
- “Jumping” the battery of a motor vehicle
- Being a bystander to any of the above
3. Visit an eye doctor regularly – and don’t ignore developing issues. Accidents aren’t the only ways our eyes can become damaged; old age, diseases and other problems can create eyesight issues if they’re ignored or left undiagnosed. If your family has a history of vision problems it’s especially important to visit an ophthalmologist on a regular basis; for adults aged 40 – 65 this is every two to four years, and every one to two years after that. And no matter how old you are, if you experience visual changes, pain, flashes of light, seeing spots, excessive tearing, and excessive dryness, you need to visit an eye doctor as soon as possible.
As we enter the second half of summer we should all take our eyesight’s health into consideration. Don’t limit your healthy and safety precautions to wearing sunglasses and hats to protect your eyes from the sunlight – take every safety precaution you can to ensure that your eyes will remain healthy and functional for many years to come.