Eye on the Prize – Eye Protection in the Construction Sector

Eye on the Prize – Eye Protection in the Construction Sector

09th October 2018

Last week we reported on September’s National Eye Health Week which is an annual event that aims to raise awareness of the importance of eye health and just how seriously damage to the eyes can affect your whole lifestyle.  With so many people in Britain nowadays suffering severe sight loss, it’s important to spread the word that half of these people’s sight problems could have been avoided if they had regular eye tests.  A regular sight test will easily detect very early signs of eye problems like glaucoma, cataracts and retinal problems.  A routine eye test can also discover other health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, autoimmune disorders, tumours and even skin cancer.  We really cannot stress how important it is for everybody, in all sectors to get their eyes tested regularly.

Our eyes are one of our most vital organs, whilst also being one of the most fragile.  Sight is an important sensory process that is critical to our busy modern lifestyles.  We rely on sight to work, walk, drive, read, write, and communicate.  Our eyes are particularly vulnerable to hazards, especially sharp objects and small particles.  The fragile moisture and pH balance of the eyes mean that the common chemicals present in a range of workplaces could cause serious harm. 

Construction sites often contains many of the above-mentioned hazards and the industry experiences 20% of workplace eye injuries annually, it’s the most common industry for eye injuries.  Construction sites contain sharp tools and materials that are potential eye hazards.  Sites are usually very dusty environments with many types of dangerous particulate matter.  Whilst the mandatory use of hard hats in construction does help to protect workers from eye injury, the best protection against workplace hazards is dedicated eye protection in the form of safety glasses or goggles.

There are steps that can be taken to reduce the hazards in the workplace:

  • All areas should be assessed for potential risks to eye health.
  • Efforts should be made to reduce flying debris, including small particles like chips and dust.
  • Lighting should be adapted to suit worker health and wellbeing, if applicable.
  • First aid kids should be readily available and eye wash stations should be carefully positioned.
  • Eye safety policy, training and drills will help to educate, and raise awareness of eye health best practice.

It’s estimated that up to 90% of eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear.  It’s vital to ensure that the right type of eye protection is chosen, depending on the work being carried out.  A worrying percentage of those who suffer eye injuries in the workplace were either not wearing eye protection or wearing the wrong type of protection at the time of the accident. 

Safety goggles are the only type of eyewear that protect against debris and dust because they create a protective seal around the eyes, protecting them from microscopic airborne particles.  Eye injuries can occur at any time, so it’s vital that eye protection is worn at all times in order to limit the incidence of injuries in work.  They may feel cumbersome at first, but workers will soon get used to wearing eye protection and will be grateful for them if an incident occurs that could threaten their eyesight.