How to Prevent Eye Injuries in Construction Sites

How to Prevent Eye Injuries in Construction Sites

There are several reasons why construction sites are considered high-risk areas. Various types of accidents can occur in these workplaces, which include falls, electrocutions, and injuries resulting from falling objects, fires, and explosions.

Eye injuries are also common in construction sites. A past study showed that around 20 percent of occupational eye injuries occur in areas where buildings and structures are being constructed.

It was also found that the majority of these injuries occurred among craft and operative construction workers, including carpenters, assemblers, sanders, grinding machine operators, and plumbers.

A leading eye doctor in Dubai states that eye injuries in construction sites can be easily avoided by simple preventive measures that employers should implement.

These preemptive actions should include:

1.   Determining the eye hazards in the worksite

Before a construction project begins, employers and their occupational health and safety personnel need to identify the potential eye hazards in the site.

They can do this by conducting research and understanding the scope of their project to determine the hazardous work areas and equipment. They can also look into their history of worksite incidents.

Some common causes of eye injuries in construction sites are:

●     Flying or projectile objects

Debris, tools, particles, dirt, dust, and sand can result from construction tasks such as chiseling, drilling, grinding, sanding, sawing, and woodworking. These flying objects can enter and injure the eye of the person doing them and around them.

●     Heat

Workers often workaround or are exposed to high temperatures in construction sites. They are at risk of injuring their eyes due to hot sparks, burns from furnace operations, and splashes from molten chemicals.

●     Chemicals

Chemical accidents are one of the more dangerous health risks for workers on construction sites. Even a small splash of harsh chemicals on the eyes or exposure to welding fumes and gases can cause a partial loss of sight or blindness, which may be irreversible.

While construction is ongoing, employers and their occupational health and safety team should conduct regular inspections of the areas and equipment where eye injuries are likely to occur.

2.   Providing employees with the appropriate protective eyewear

Once employers have identified the eye hazards, they need to invest in the right protective eyewear and gear for the employees to use.

Examples of such protective eyewear and gear are:

  • Safety goggles
  • Face shields
  • Full facepiece respirators
  • Helmets

However, not all protective eyewear and gear are manufactured the same. For full protection, these eyepieces should comply with OSHA regulations.

Additionally, employers should ensure that all protective eyewear and gear fit the employees properly and comfortably. Workers will not want to wear them if they are uncomfortable or loose-fitting.

3.   Requiring full participation of all employees in eye safety policy

Although employees have the essential protective eyewear and gear, there is no guarantee that they will wear them, especially if there is no one supervising them.

To ensure workers use these protective pieces at all times in the construction site, implement a policy that makes wearing them mandatory.

Create a detailed program regarding the use of protective eyewear and gear while in the worksite. Include a copy of this in the employment contract that employees need to sign.

Additionally, display signs and posters regarding eye injury prevention. These visual reminders inform workers of the importance of wearing protective eyepieces and gear clearly and consistently.

To be truly effective, employers need to display the signage in common areas and near equipment, chemicals, and other risky areas.

Also, employers will do well to review and update their eye safety practices regularly to reduce the risk of eye injuries on the construction site.

4.   Providing regular eye safety training programs

Many employees need to be reminded of the importance of using protective eyewear and handling equipment, tools, and chemicals that can lead to eye injuries. Aside from verbal and visual cues, they can benefit from training programs.

Companies need to provide a comprehensive training program for newly hired employees regarding the proper use of protective eyewear and gear.

All employees will also benefit from regular refresher training programs that allow them to remember the importance of following the right eye safety practices.

These training programs should also cover the basics of eye safety, such as avoiding rubbing the eyes with dirty hands, cleaning the eyewear before and after use, and brushing off the dust particulars and debris after removing eye safety gear.

Employers will also do well to add eye safety topics to the regular employee training and learning programs. These can establish, maintain, and emphasize the need for using protective eyewear in the worksite.

5.   Being prepared for emergencies

Accidents can happen anywhere. Even if employers have implemented preventive measures, there is still a chance that employees could get injured in the worksite.

Since there is a possibility that accidents can still occur at the construction site, employers have to be prepared to deal with them.

Below are some tips for employers to prepare for these emergencies:

  • Include basic first aid treatments for eye injuries in safety and health training programs for employees.
  • Install eyewash stations around the worksite, especially where hazardous chemicals are used and stored.
  • Ensure first aid cabinets and kits are stocked with eye drops, gauze, and eyewash solutions.

6.   Inspecting protective eyewear and gear regularly

Protective eyewear and gear are not designed to last forever, especially if they are used every day. There should be designated employees who can inspect them for signs of wear and tear regularly.

Safety goggles and other eyewear with loose, twisted, and sweat-soaked headbands are unsafe to use since they cannot hold the eye gear in its proper position.

Additionally, protective eyewear with scratched lenses or loose frames reduces a worker’s ability to perform efficiently. They can also increase the risk of eye injuries.

If the protective eyewear or gear is already damaged, broken, or of poor quality, it is best to throw them away since they cannot protect the wearer’s eyes anymore.

As an additional workplace safety tip, employers will do well to spring for annual eye exams for all employees. These checkups can help workers maintain or improve their eye health based on the diagnosis and recommendation of a specialist.

Since people cannot function well when they have poor or impaired vision, employers need to prioritize the eye safety of their employees at all times. This should be one of the top goals of all construction companies.

AUTHOR BIO:

Dr. Millicent M. Grim, Specialist Ophthalmologist & LASIK Specialist, is the Medical Director of Gulf Eye Center in Dubai. Since 2002, Gulf Eye Center’s highly qualified ophthalmologists and optometrists/ODs have been successfully treating a wide range of eye conditions using advanced techniques. They also provide comprehensive eye care and vision restoration procedures for people of all ages.

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