News | Published June 26, 2014 | Written by Susan Ososkie, CRNP, MS, NP-C, occupational health, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Job-related eye injuries

Every day in the United States, there are approximately 2,000 job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 100 of these injuries will result in one or more days of lost work. At Mount Nittany Physician Group Occupational Health, on average, one eye injury per week will be evaluated on an emergent basis in the office, and about half of these injuries will need advanced care by an ophthalmologist.

Many of these injuries result from chemical burns or irritation to one or both eyes from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products. Among welders, UV radiation burns (welders flash) can damage the workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue; however, the most common eye injuries in the workplace occur when small particles (foreign bodies) strike or abrade the eye, or become imbedded in the cornea. Metal slivers, wood chips or dust that are ejected from tools, windblown or fall from above a worker's head are examples of such particles.

Blunt force trauma can result when large objects strike the eye or eye socket, causing fractures, penetration, or even prolapse of the contents of the globe, which can cause permanent injury and loss of vision. In addition, healthcare workers, laboratory staff, janitorial staff, or veterinarians can be exposed to infectious organisms by ocular contamination through splashes of blood or bodily fluids.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear. Statistics demonstrate that three out of every five workers injured were either not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. To be effective, eyewear must fit properly and be effectively designed to protect the eyes based on the activity being performed. The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has standards that require employers provide their workers with the appropriate eye protection.

Over the course of the next few months, the providers at Mount Nittany Physician Group Occupational Health will be previewing specific types of eye injuries along with current treatments and preventative measures. Our July issue will focus on corneal abrasions.