Those of us who have working vision generally rely on our sense of sight more than any other senses to understand our environment. As much as possible, we must shield our eyes from any dangers that could lead to blindness.
However, eye hazards are everywhere, and the workplace is no exception. Here are some of the most common workplace hazards that can damage your eyes.
Even the tiniest dust particles in the air can pose a serious threat to your eyesight. The intensity of the effects of dust on a person’s vision may vary depending on the type and size of the particles, and how much of them are in the environment. In urban or highly industrialised areas, the dust in the air may include pollutants that can cause more damage and irritation to the eyes.
Dust can have short-term and long-term effects on our eyes. Some of its short-term effects are itchiness, tearfulness, soreness and reddening. Generally, these effects are due to minor irritation that can go away naturally and easily.
However, prolonged and constant exposure to dust and smoke particles may lead to conditions, like chronic dry eyes, that make your eyes more vulnerable to further complications, such as infections and corneal damage.
Almost every industry uses chemicals in their operations that can be harmful to the eyes. Even if the nature of your work does not directly involve using chemicals, there are still workplace essentials that could cause severe chemical eye burns if they get to your eyes.
Chemical eye burns are mostly caused by corrosive chemicals that could immediately injure the eyes upon contact. Highly alkaline (pH > 10) substances, in particular, may present the greatest threat, since they can be found in almost any workplace, from laboratory chemicals to generic cleaning products.
Projectiles can be anything from small bits of glass, metal or wood, to larger projectiles like darts, and toy missiles. The risk of having a projectile come in contact with the surface of your eyes may be higher for those who engage in more physical labour, such as welders and construction workers.
Depending on the size, type and shape of the projectile, the eye can sustain various types of injuries, including corneal damage and blunt trauma injuries that could cause internal bleeding. Having a projectile lodged into your eye may also cause irritation, inflammation and scarring, and can result in lasting damage on your vision if not removed immediately.
Computer vision syndrome
Working at a computer requires the eye to focus and refocus all the time. Your eye muscles exert a lot of effort so your eyes can move as you read, type and process texts and images on a computer screen. And unlike books and papers, screens have contrast, flicker and glare which your eyes also need to account for.
Many jobs nowadays require workers to stare at computers for long hours, which could significantly strain the eyes. There is a whole range of eye conditions that qualify as computer vision syndrome (CVS). Some symptoms of CVS are blurred vision, double vision, headaches, eye irritation, neck or back pain, and dry, red eyes.
Most of these workplace eye hazards can be alleviated by wearing safety glasses and being extra cautious of potential dangers to your eyes. In case of eye emergencies in the workplace, it is best that you immediately see a doctor to assess and mitigate the damage.