While it might seem obvious, it bears repeating. Protecting your eyes from elements that can cause injury, such as particles and sunlight, is extremely important. Consider that a moment spent properly protecting your eyes can prevent a lifetime of problems.
The following statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Occupational Health bureau make the need for and importance of eye safety all the more apparent:
- Eye injuries occur at a rate of 2,000 per day.
- Flying objects, falling objects and sparks cause 70 percent of eye injuries in U.S. workplaces.
- More than 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear.
Eye protection means more than just wearing the contact lenses or glasses you use for vision correction. It includes safety glasses, goggles and face shields that adhere to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. ANSI-approved protection will be marked with “ANSI Z87.1” on the lens or frame. They are available at most hardware stores.
The type of eye protection needed depends on the activity you are involved in.
Protection From Light
Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can damage the retina of the eye and cause cataracts, macular degeneration and growths on the eye. The American Optometric Association recommends wearing sunglasses or goggles year-round that block both UVA and UVB rays. Look for sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays. Of course, sunglasses can be fashionable as well as practical, but the best protection comes from wraparound styles that prevent the sun’s rays from entering from the side. If using a tanning bed, wear goggles to protect your eyes from indoor UV light.
Protection at Home
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma recommend that you wear ANSI-approved protective eyewear when performing common household activities that pose a risk of eye injuries. Eye protection should be worn when using hazardous chemicals or other substances that could damage eyes upon contact, or when other harmful material could unexpectedly fly into the eyes.
When applying fertilizer and pesticide, for example, wear goggles to protect your eyes from particle contamination and splashes. Protect your eyes from rocks, debris and dust when mowing, as well as branches, flying limbs and particles when trimming or cutting wood. If you are using a lawnmower, saw, sander, drill or any other power tool, safety glasses should cover both the front and sides of your eyes.
Protection When Playing Sports
Athletic eye protection should meet the specific requirements of that sport. Requirements are typically established and certified by the sport’s governing body and/or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). ASTM establishes standards for various racket sports, lacrosse, hockey, paintball, baseball and Alpine skiing. For example, helmets and visors protect the eyes when playing hockey and bicycling/racing, and eye shields protect the eyes when playing football. Also wear goggles when swimming to protect the eyes from salt or chlorine in the water. Make sure your protective eyewear has UV protection when participating in outdoor activities, such as snow skiing or water-skiing.
Protection at Work
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes standards for what protective eyewear must be worn on the job. The eye protection for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure and other protective equipment used. For example, certain careers, such as firefighting and construction, require specific eye protection as part of the equipment. A company’s human resources department is commonly in charge of overseeing OSHA compliance to ensure worker safety.
Make sure your eye protection fits properly. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that safety glasses rest firmly on top of the nose and close to, but not against, the face.
Ultimately, the key to preventing eye injuries is to take a proactive approach to sustaining healthy vision. In addition to proper safety eyewear, early detection and treatment of eye conditions and diseases help maintain good vision.