By Lori B. Painter, Lawyer at Metzger Wickersham
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day. Of the total amount of work-related injuries, 10-20% will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Accounting for lost productivity, medical expenses, worker compensation, legal fees, fines, and higher insurance rates, eye injuries cost more than $900 million each year.
Flying objects, particles, tools, chemicals and harmful radiation are the cause of most eye injuries. In many cases, implementing safe workplace practices and using appropriate protective eyewear could prevent injuries entirely.
While many people think that eye injuries only occur in construction, trade or manufacturing jobs, nearly 40% of work-related eye injuries happen in healthcare facilities, offices, laboratories and other similar work environments.
What can Workers do to Prevent Eye Injury?
March is Workplace Eye Safety Awareness Month, which offers a great opportunity to remind everyone about a few tips to help protect eyes from potential injury.
Luckily, 90% of all work-related eye injuries can be avoided or reduced by taking proper precautions. There are a few things you can do to help prevent an eye injury in the workplace:
- Assess Operations: Inspect all work areas and equipment for hazards to eyes, review eye accident injury reports and identify areas that present eye hazards.
- Test Vision: Uncorrected vision problems can cause accidents. Complete vision testing during routine physical exams.
- Wear Protective Eyewear: Select certified safety eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, welding helmets, or full face respirators, which are designed for the specific duty or hazard and wear them if there is a chance of eye injury, whether you are working in or only passing through areas that pose eye hazards.
- Fit and Coverage: Workers need protective eyewear that fits well, covers appropriately and is comfortable. Have eyewear fitted by an eye care professional. Keep safety eyewear in good condition, repair or replace them when necessary.
- Plan for Emergency: Learn the company’s first-aid procedure and accident prevention policies for eye injuries. Locate the eyewash stations, keep up to date on eye safety education and current protective eyewear options.
What to Do After a Workplace Injury
If you have been injured at work, follow these steps:
- Report Accidents: If you are injured on the job, notify your supervisor immediately. Your injury should be reported in writing, if possible. Complete an accident report and request a copy of the report for your records. You should notify your employer within 21 days of your injury. Be mindful that you must give notice to your employer no later than 120 days after your injury or you will lose your right to receive benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. Your employer and insurance company have 21 days to accept a claim or issue a denial.
- Get Medical Treatment: Your vision is important! Get medical treatment as soon as possible after a work injury. Do not ignore your injury or delay going to a doctor. You are required to treat with a medical provider from your employer's panel of physicians for the first 90 days following a work injury. If no panel exists, you can treat with a provider of your choosing from the beginning of your workers' compensation claim.
- Listen to Your Doctor: Follow your doctor's orders. Your workers' compensation benefits may be affected if you fail to follow your doctor's guidelines or restrictions. Do not return to work or participate in activities that could exacerbate your injury unless/until you receive approval from your doctor.
- Enlist Legal Help: Don't give a recorded statement or sign anything given to you by the workers' compensation insurance company without consulting a lawyer. Without legal advice, you may unknowingly do or say things that could put your claim in jeopardy.
Vision loss and eye injury are not only painful, but they can affect daily life as well as cause many lost days of work and sometimes lead to permanent vision loss. Remember that something as simple as putting on a pair of safety glasses can help prevent serious eye injuries in the workplace. Although March is designated as Workplace Eye Safety Awareness Month, it is important to remember to wear your safety glasses year-round.
If you or someone you know, has suffered from an eye injury or sustained loss of sight due to a workplace injury or a recreational accident, contact Metzger Wickersham. Call us at (888)-286-2850 or email us to schedule your free consultation today.