Healthy Vision Month Focuses on Workplace Eye Safety

Each day, more than 2,000 U.S. workers receive medical treatment because of work-related eye injuries, while more than 800,000 eye injuries occur annually. In an effort to reduce those numbers, the National Eye Institute and other organizations are focusing on workplace eye safety as part of Healthy Vision Month 2006.

Workplace injuries are a leading cause of eye trauma, vision loss, disability and blindness, according to Paul Sieving, Ph.D., director of vision research at the National Institutes of Health, which house the National Eye Institute.

Many eye injuries occur because workers are not wearing the right eye protection, their eye protection does not fit or they are not wearing any protection at all. Flying fragments of metal, wood, concrete and other building materials, along with windblown dust and debris, splashes from chemicals and molten metal, hot sparks, optical radiation and even the everyday nail, are common workplace eye hazards.

"To help promote eye health and safety at work, Healthy Vision Month 2006 will focus on what employers and employees can do to reduce the number of job-related eye injuries," Sieving said.

Healthy Vision Month is observed each May. It is coordinated by the National Eye Institute and this year is co-sponsored by NIOSH, the National Safety Council and the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses. Other organizations and businesses are joining forces to make eye safety at work everyone's business.

"Simple improvements in workplace conditions and the use of the proper safety eyewear can greatly reduce the number of eye injuries, said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "Identifying and removing or minimizing eye safety hazards is a critical part of a good eye safety program. Ensuring that workers have the appropriate eye protection for the job and that it is used are also key components."

Eye safety should be a continuing focus in workplace safety training and education, Sieving noted.

"Procedures for handling eye injuries should be established and reinforced. Also, poor vision can affect work performance and safety," Sieving explained. "Workers should have a comprehensive eye examination on a regular basis to help maintain healthy vision, a first step in avoiding injuries on the job."

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