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Eye safety basics

Eye safety often isn't in the front of people's mind. But it should be.

Imagine that yesterday you could see perfectly well, but after an avoidable eye injury, today you're only partially sighted — to the extent that you can no longer drive or read. Your life has changed dramatically.

Now consider that you could have preserved your vision simply by wearing safety glasses or observing other eye safety habits.

Causes of eye injuries

According to Prevent Blindness:

  • Accidents involving common household products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year.

  • More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day.

  • Up to 20 percent of work-related eye injuries cause temporary or permanent vision loss.

  • Every 13 minutes, an emergency room treats a sports-related eye injury.

  • More than 40 percent of sports-related eye injuries occur among children ages 14 and younger.

Thankfully, 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable with the use of appropriate safety eyewear, Prevent Blindness says.

The most common causes of eye injuries at work include:

"Eye Safety At-a-Glance" has a list of recommended eyewear for various occupations, a comparison of safety lens materials and dos and don'ts of emergency eye care at work. From The Vision Council, with the American Society of Safety Engineers.

  • Flying objects (bits of metal, glass, plastic)

  • Air-blown and wind-blown particles (dust, wood, sand)

  • Tools (screwdrivers, wrenches)

  • Chemicals (gasoline, oil, solvents, acids)

  • Harmful radiation (welding arcs, UV)

At home, household cleaners and chemicals are common causes of eye injuries. Other causes include:

Had a product-related eye injury? The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a website where you can submit reports of harm or risks of harm related to products. The site also lets you search for such reports, as well as product recalls.

  • Eyelash curlers

  • Mascara brushes and other cosmetic applicators

  • Fingernails (such as when applying and removing contact lenses)

  • Lawn, garden and hand tools (mowers, etc.)

  • Air-blown and wind-blown particles

  • Bungee cords

  • Falls, bumping into walls, etc.

  • Champagne corks

  • Battery acid

  • Toys and games with hard or sharp edges

Blunt trauma (someone or something hitting your eye) causes many sports-related eye injuries. Besides another player's body, hand or finger, other causes of eye injuries during sports include:

  • A ball or puck

  • A stick, bat or racquet

  • Wind-blown and airborne particles (sand, dirt)

  • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight

  • Paintballs

  • Fireworks

In most cases, simple precautions can help you prevent eye injuries at work, home and play.

Avoid distractions when doing anything that could potentially harm your eyes. Resist the temptation to "multi-task" when working with tools or other objects near your eyes.

And always wear safety glasses, protective goggles or other sports eyewear for greater eye safety when the situation calls for it.

What to do for an eye injury

If you suffer any eye injury, contact an eye doctor immediately for advice.

Most eye doctors have emergency contact numbers for injuries that occur after normal business hours or on weekends.

Depending on the situation, your eye doctor may want you to flush your eye with water or sterile saline solution prior to your office visit. Or he or she may recommend you immediately go to the hospital emergency room.

If you wear contact lenses, tell the doctor and ask if you should remove them or leave them in.

If you work with chemicals, your workplace should have a sink area where you can flush your eyes with water if chemicals or other substances get in your eyes. Flush your eyes for several minutes to dilute and rinse out any potentially harmful substances.

When in doubt, treat all eye injuries as potential emergencies, and contact an eye doctor immediately.

Remember, you have only one pair of eyes. Take good care of them!

Features to look for in safety glasses

To protect your eyes from harm, always wear safety glasses when involved in potentially risky activities, including sports.

Choose eyewear with safety-rated, impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses. Also, make sure the frame is safety-rated as well.

If you're doing work outdoors or are frequently in and out of the sun, consider safety-rated photochromic lenses. These lenses are clear indoors and automatically darken in sunlight and are available in polycarbonate.

READ MORE about workplace safety glasses and protective sports eyewear.

Eye Safety News

Fireworks — even sparklers — are dangerous to your eyes (and other body parts)

August 2020 — Fireworks are a common accessory to many celebrations, especially around the Fourth of July holiday.

Unfortunately, even fireworks as simple as sparklers can lead to serious injury, especially to the eyes, head, face, ears and hands. And some of these injuries can be very serious.

According to the latest Fireworks Annual Report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in June, fireworks were responsible for an estimated 10,000 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during calendar year 2019.

Nearly half of these injuries occurred among individuals younger than 20 years of age. The highest rate of fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency departments in 2019 occurred among young children ages 0 to 4 years. Older teens (ages 15 to 19) had the second-highest rate.

The CPSC also received reports of 12 fireworks-related deaths during 2019.

Most fireworks-related injuries in the United States occur in early summertime, before and after the Independence Day (July 4th) holiday. Roughly 73% of the total estimated number of injuries from fireworks in 2019 were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments between June 21 and July 21, according to CPSC.

Of the fireworks-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments in 2019, an estimated 12% were significant enough to require the patients to be admitted to the hospital or transferred to another hospital.

READ NEXT: Wildfire smoke and your eyes

For more information, you can download CPSC's latest Fireworks Annual Report here.

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