According to the CDC, over 10,600 construction-related eye injuries occur each year. From bruises to blindness, the risk of injuries is significant at a worksite due to the number of hazards present, such as heavy machinery, pieces of metal, and arc flashes.
To prevent, reduce, and eventually eliminate eye injuries in construction, OSHA encourages (and often requires) employers and workers to meet specific safety standards.
However, there’s no such thing as too much safety when it comes to your and your workers’ vision. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips for preventing eye injuries in construction.
Evaluate Your Worksite
Depending on the nature of your work, some risks may be more significant than others. Review your company’s injury records regularly and see if there’s a common denominator.
For example, do most eye injuries occur in the course of welding? If so, consider retraining welders and those around them. Also, check your welding helmets for wear and tear.
On the other hand, what if chemical backsplash is reported as the cause of injury in most cases? Then, you can put procedures in place that ensure everyone uses the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Additionally, make sure that everyone on site properly stores and labels hazardous chemicals.
Leverage Personal Protective Equipment
In the construction industry, safety goggles and welding helmets are a necessity—not a luxury! Generally-speaking, OSHA requires employers to pay for and provide workers with personal protective equipment. And not just any PPE, but OSHA-compliant equipment.
Employers should promptly replace worn or damaged equipment. If you’re a manager, you should regularly check whether your workers’ equipment needs an update to keep up with current worksite risks.
Use Proper Signage
Training construction workers on how to use PPE isn’t enough to keep your worksite eye injury-free. Contractors and employees should also know when to use what equipment and be able to identify areas and situations that are particularly hazardous.
Accordingly, you should implement safety signage strategically. For example, “CAUTION: Eye Protection Required in this Area” signs should be posted in areas where hazards, such as sparks, flying debris, and chemical fumes, are present.
You should also outfit heavy machinery with signs such as “DO NOT OPERATE without eye and ear protection.” Additionally, it’s a good idea to post Safety Checklists that cover emergency procedures and PPE requirements in employee bathrooms and break areas.
Install Emergency Wash Stations
Without proper safety measures, commonly used construction materials, such as wood treatments, fiberglass particles, and resins, can make their way into workers’ eyes. Although it’s always preferable to prevent accidents, it’s smart to have a plan in case something happens!
When eyes come in contact with a chemical backsplash or harmful debris, the seconds that follow are vital to minimizing the potential for injury. On-site-decontamination (the ability to flush harmful substances out) can make the difference between a minor injury or a major chemical burn, which is why OSHA requires certain workplaces to offer eye and body flushing equipment. Additionally, you should have first aid kits stocked with gauze and eye drops readily available and easy to locate.
Lead By Example
Accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of pay-grade or experience. That’s why construction workers at every level of a company should receive injury-prevention training.
Additionally, contractors, employees, and supervisors should all be held to the same safety standards. For example, when facing potential exposure to flying particles, everyone in the room should wear adequate eye protection, whether they are foremen, executives, or clients visiting a worksite. Hazardous materials make no exceptions, and neither should you.
Educate Your Workforce
Employers provide the PPE and, in turn, workers, contractors, and site managers must use and care for it properly. That’s why OSHA requires safety training for construction workers that covers how to
- navigate their workplace
- use the equipment
- recognize, prevent, and address construction hazards
As an employer, you must provide such training opportunities. Luckily, instead of trying to implement an in-house training program, you can easily turn to one of our OSHA-compliant PPE courses to train or retrain your workforce.
Construction-related injuries affect workers’ morale, site productivity, and a company’s bottom line. Helping your workers understand and avoid injury-causing hazards is your first line of defense. Take the first step toward reducing construction-related eye injuries by exploring our OSHA construction safety courses that cover fall protection, hazardous chemicals, and employer responsibilities.