It’s not hard to see why eye safety has been a longtime concern for construction professionals all across the United States. Your average project site is a veritable cacophony of dust, microscopic particles, chemicals, and other elements that easily aggravate the various parts of the eye. Eye injuries are relatively common in the construction industry, with more than 10,600 cases resulting in lost workdays each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From framing to finish work, the eyes are always at least partially vulnerable to injury, even when wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, eyewear can become slick with sweat and slide down the bridge of the nose, exposing the eyes to hazardous conditions. Alternatively, if chemicals are released into the air, eyewear will do little to prevent damage. There are countless scenarios like the two we just described, rendering close supervision of workers an absolute necessity for contractors hoping to reduce the number of work-related injuries on the project site.
If you’ve been hit with costly citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the past, you already understand the importance of maintaining a safe project site to protect your bottom line, avoid claims, and complete projects on time. In this article, a Miami construction litigation attorney will discuss why eye safety remains a central issue in the construction industry. To learn more about OSHA defense and other construction-related legal matters, consult the Miami construction litigation attorneys at Cotney Construction Law.
Are Prescription Glasses Sufficient Eye Protection?
The older you get, the more likely you are to need glasses to maintain peak visual acuity. Although prescription glasses are extremely effective for sharpening images and ensuring that workers are aware of risks in the immediate area, they aren’t designed to protect the eyes. By law, prescription glasses must be impact-resistant; however, they aren’t required to be shatterproof. Furthermore, they only shield the eyes from hazards that are directly in front of the wearer. This will protect the eyes against things like wood chips, nails, and pebbles, but only in the right conditions. Smaller particles are more problematic. When the wind is whipping up dirt and dust, small particles can easily find their way into the unprotected portions of the wearer’s eyes — under, over, and around the glasses. Needless to say, working with limited vision slows production, decreases efficiency, and endangers workers.
Construction Hazards Require Tougher Solutions
As integral participants in one of the largest and most dangerous industries in the nation, contractors can’t afford to be negligent when it comes to eye safety. The eyes play an important role in identifying hazards that must be avoided. When the eyes are compromised, it can lead to even greater injuries, such as falls, electrocutions, struck-by object injuries, and more. Everything from a minor scrape to a lost limb can occur when vision is lost on the project site. Some estimates show that nearly 1,000 eye injuries occur each day. Over the course of the year, this costs employers over $300 million in lost time, medical expenses, and workers’ compensation. Is your business contributing to this statistic? For a relatively nominal fee, you can outfit your workers in quality eyewear that keeps them safe and ensures that their sight is preserved for the future.
Related: Assessing Workplace Hazards
The Two Main Causes of Eye Injury
The majority of eye injuries on the project site can be traced back to one of two causes:
- Not wearing approved eye protection
- Wearing the wrong type of eye protection
Pretty simple, right? These causes might seem obvious, but that’s not always the case for workers. Consider this: How can a worker be completely sure that their eye protection is suitable? Protective eyewear may appear to fit perfectly, but this may not be the case upon closer inspection. In fact, wearing improper eye protection can actually present a hazard in itself, which explains why many workers succumb to injury while wearing some form of protective eyewear.
There are simply too many potential eye hazards on the project site to allow improper use of PPE to flourish. Some of the most hazardous include:
- Flying debris
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Liquid splash
- Infrared radiation
While some of these hazards can damage the eye upon contact, others take a toll on vision over time. For instance, UV rays found in sunlight can damage the eyes, especially after long hours spent outside on a hot day. Infrared radiation from torch welding and cutting can also damage the eye. This is concerning because it is an invisible hazard that can cause permanent damage to the cornea and retina. In the past, workers have even gone blind from failing to protect their eyes in the presence of infrared radiation. If one of your workers has experienced an eye injury under your supervision, consult a Miami construction litigation attorney.
Related: Construction Site Management Tips
Protection and Prevention Is the Key
Eye injuries are painful and debilitating. It’s difficult to analyze the extent of eye damage without consulting a medical professional. For this reason, all contractors need to have an action plan for dealing with eye injuries on the project site. Swift and accurate treatment can save sight and prevent infection, which makes it much easier for a worker to find their footing on the path to recovery and overcome their injury. Although having a first aid plan is important, nearly every medical professional will say the same thing when it comes to preventing eye injuries in the construction industry — protection and prevention is the key. Our Miami contractor attorneys recommend having extra eye protection available on the project site, including an assortment of spectacles, goggles, and masks, to ensure that workers are protected at all times.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.