What to do in the event of eye injuries at work

Eye injuries in the workplace can have serious consequences, both for employee health and company productivity. 

It’s crucial (and mandatory!) to understand how to prevent these incidents and react effectively when they occur. This article will provide you with all the essential information on how to prevent workplace eye accidents for your employees.

What you'll learn in this article:
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    How to prevent eye injury in the workplace

    Prevention is the best defense against eye accidents in the workplace. It’s simple: by adopting effective preventive measures, you can ensure a safe working environment for your employees.

    Here are five tactics to prevent eye accidents in your workplace.

    1. Identifying the risks of eye accidents

    The first step is to identify the different types of hazards present in the workplace to ensure the health and safety of all employees. A thorough understanding of these hazards enables you to provide your employees with eye protection appropriate to their environment.

    Here are the main risks that employees may encounter:

    Mechanical risks

    Mechanical risks include splinters of metal, wood or other materials thrown into the air by tools and machines. They can cause serious injuries such as cuts, abrasions or contusions, and can even perforate the cornea.

    Chemical risks

    Exposure to corrosive or irritating chemicals represents a serious risk of eye injury. These substances can cause burns, skin irritation, poisoning, and other serious health problems, especially when protective measures are not in place (hence their importance!).

    Physical and thermal risks

    Employees may be exposed to UV and infrared rays, as well as flames and blowtorches. Safety glasses then become important to prevent long-term disorders such as cataracts.

    2. Suitable eye protection equipment

    Once the hazards to workers’ vision have been identified, it’s crucial to provide your employees with safety eyewear adapted to their working environment. These glasses will effectively protect them against all risks and hazards.

    It’s a good idea to set up a system for regularly checking the state of protection and replacing damaged safety glasses. Encourage your employees to report faulty equipment immediately to minimize the risk of eye injury.

    3. Employee awareness

    Raising employee awareness is crucial to informing them of potential hazards in the workplace and teaching them safe working practices. 

    We recommend educating them about the different types of eye hazards, the possible consequences, as well as the importance of wearing their prescription safety glasses at all times.

    To do this, you can organize regular sessions to share information effectively. Don’t hesitate to incorporate frequent reminders of good safety practices through posters or team discussions.

    4. Organization of the work area

    An organized work area can considerably reduce the risk of eye accidents. It is therefore essential to keep work areas clean and uncluttered and to use safety glasses when necessary. 

    5. Identify a person responsible for eye safety

    Appointing an eye protection manager helps centralize efforts to prevent and respond to eye accidents. This person must be trained in eye protection best practices and be able to manage incidents. This person is also responsible for managing the prescription safety glasses program.

    How to deal with an eye accident in the workplace

    Even with all preventive measures in place, eye accidents can still happen. It’s essential to know the recommended procedures for responding to an eye accident on the job to minimize potential damage.

    Here’s the general procedure recommended by our eye protection experts.

    1. Identify the source of the accident

    The first step after an eye accident is to determine the cause of the incident. Is it chemical splashes, dust, metal shavings, or a direct blow? 


    Identifying the source helps to choose the appropriate response. For example, the response to a chemical splash will be different from that to a mechanical injury. Determining the source is therefore essential for healthcare professionals to be able to provide the right treatment.

    2. Rinse the eye

    In the event of contact with a chemical substance, immediately flush the affected eye with clean water for at least 15 minutes. It’s important to use a fresh water source, such as a tap or eyewash station. Make sure the water flows from the inside of the eye outwards to avoid contaminating the other eye. Rinsing helps dilute and remove the chemical, reducing permanent damage.

    3. Do not rub

    It’s important to remind the employee not to rub the injured eye, as this could make the situation worse. Rubbing the eye can cause further damage, especially if foreign particles are still present. It is essential to keep the eye as still as possible until a medical professional can examine it. 

    4. Stay with the victim

    Make sure the injured employee is not left alone until they receive appropriate medical care. Staying with the victim allows you to monitor their condition and provide moral support. 

    If the situation worsens, the person in charge can react quickly and ensure effective communication with the emergency services.

    5. Encourage the employee to consult a doctor

    Encourage the employee to consult a healthcare professional, even if the injury seems minor. Some eye injuries appear benign at first glance but can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

    6. Report the accident

    All eye accidents must be documented and reported in accordance with company procedures. This documentation is crucial for several reasons:

    • it creates an accident history;
    • it identifies safety trends and areas for improvement; 
    • it implements additional preventive measures.  

    An accurate and detailed report can also be useful for legal and insurance purposes.

    How to react to these five common eye injuries

    Learn how to deal effectively with these five common types of eye injury in the workplace.

    1. Flying debris (metal or glass)

    Flying debris, such as shards of metal or glass, are common in industrial environments. They are particularly dangerous for the eyes, as they are particularly sharp and damaging to the cornea due to the increased risk of scratching or laceration. 

    ☝️How to react:

    Take a moment to assess the situation and identify what may have entered the eye. Instruct the employee not to touch or rub the affected eye, not to remove contact lenses (if applicable) and not to use tools such as tweezers to try to remove the foreign body. Seek the assistance of a healthcare professional as soon as possible, or go to the emergency department.

    2. Particles or foreign bodies

    Particles or foreign bodies can be any unwanted element present in the eye. They can range from tiny dust particles and wood splinters to larger objects. Foreign bodies frequently lodge under the eyelid. 

    Signs of a foreign body include intense pain followed by burning and irritation, a sensation of an object in the eye, tearing, redness, or a scratching sensation when blinking.

    ☝️How to react

    Usually, ocular debris can be removed without difficulty, although there is a risk of scratching the cornea when trying to remove the foreign body. Offer assistance and ask the employee to blink to expel the particles. 

    Instruct the employee to rinse the affected area with artificial tears, saline solution or, in an emergency, tap water to remove debris. Encourage the employee to consult a health professional to ensure that the particle is no longer in the eye.

    3. Chemical burns 

    Chemical burns occur when a harmful substance comes into contact with the eye, causing intense pain, redness, or tissue damage. 

    It’s important to treat this kind of incident as an immediate emergency to reduce the risk of damage, which can range from temporary redness to complete loss of vision. In addition, the chemical can also be absorbed into the bloodstream through the eyes, potentially causing further damage to the body.

    ☝️How to react:

    The employee should rinse the affected eye immediately! It is essential to contact the emergency services to obtain appropriate care instructions depending on the chemical to which the employee has been exposed.

    4. Ocular trauma caused by a blow to the eye

    Blows to the eye, often caused by equipment or tools in the workplace, can result in serious eye injuries such as contusions, orbital fractures or internal bleeding. 

    ☝️How to react:

    Place some type of protection over the employee’s eye. It is important not to rinse the eye or apply pressure. Get immediate help from emergency services.  

    5. UV light burns

    UV light burns occur when the eyes are exposed to intense light, for example during welding. Intense UV light can therefore burn the surface of the eye, which can be painful.

    ☝️How to react:

    Ask the employee to apply a cold compress or take an analgesic to ease the pain. It is essential to consult a doctor or emergency room to obtain appropriate treatment and assess the damage caused by UV light.

    LookSecure eye protection programs

    Now you understand the importance of providing your employees with prescription safety eyewear. Corporate eye protection programs are effective solutions for providing optimal protection, simplifying eye safety management and reducing equipment purchase costs.

    LookSecure‘s prescription safety glasses programs are flexible and tailored to the needs of your industry.

    Our prescription eyewear programs provide access to:

    • A wide selection of CSA Z94.3-certified frames
    • A 100% computerized web platform to manage all aspects of the program
    • Competitive, low prices on safety glasses
    • Access to Canada’s largest network of optometrists for vision care and frame fitting services (New Look, Iris, Greiche & Scaff)
    • Training in best practices for eye protection
    • Exclusive employee discounts on personal eyewear at our partner stores
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