An eye injury is painful, expensive, and can have long-term impacts. Yet, studies show 90% of all eye injuries are preventable.1 In the US, half of them occur at home while the other half occur at work. Of the reported injuries, up to 20% cause temporary or permanent vision loss.2
Excuses for not wearing eye protection include discomfort, improper fit, fogging or distorted vision, and simply believing there is no need for wearing it.3
The most common types of injuries at work are chemical exposures, foreign objects in the eye, and scratches on the cornea. Other high-risk injuries are burns from steam and welding-related injuries from ultra-violet and infra-red exposures.4
Common home-related eye injuries are caused by home repairs, yard work, cleaning, and cooking. Another 40% of non-work-related injuries occur during recreational or sports events.5
With any eye injury, there is always risk of vision loss. Whether temporary or permanent, that loss impacts the quality of life of that person and family. The injured person will experience significant pain and discomfort during recovery. The quality-of-life impact includes changes to family routines, inability to see or interact with loved ones in daily activities, and stress with long-term implications of depression, anger, and changes in relationships.
Financial stress will likely occur, as well. Whether the injury happens at home or at work, a person can experience loss of income, loss of spousal income while caring for the injured person, mortgage or rent concerns that can lead to loss of home, which can lead to problems meeting daily or family obligations.
If the injury occurs away from work, most health insurance plans have high deductibles and co-pays up to the maximum out-of-pocket costs. For family coverage, that can exceed $15,000. This does not include follow-up visits, additional surgeries, loss of wages during recovery, or long-term vision loss.
Assessing eye injury risks will quickly identify the need for eye protection. Flying debris or particulates that become embedded in the eye or scratch the eye’s surface requires safety glasses with side shields or wrap-around protection. Liquid splashing, sprays, or mists require the use of indirectly vented goggles. Fine dusts or air-suspended particles require non-vented goggles. All of these hazards should include wearing a face shield in addition to the primary eyewear.
Workers’ compensation not a given
In North America, many people believe an injury occurring at work is covered by workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, depending on how the injury occurred, the claim could be denied, leaving the expenses and loss of income with the injured person. If workers’ compensation accepts the claim, there is still a loss of some income as most benefits only pay 2/3 of wages and long-term benefits may only cover on-going medical costs related to that injury. It doesn’t pay the employee’s health insurance premiums and over the long-term, claim payments can reach a maximum pay-out.
An eye injury is financially expensive for the employer, as well. Using the OSHA “Safety Pays” calculator6, a vision loss injury has a direct cost of $76,000. If the eye requires surgical removal, the cost exceeds $100,000. Just a ‘simple’ removal of a foreign embedded object is $22,000.
Additional indirect costs are three to five times the direct medical cost. There is also risk of job loss. An employer cannot terminate an employee because of experiencing an injury. But the incident investigation may show the employee was not following prescribed procedures (such as not using LOTO) or was engaged in horseplay that resulted in the injury. Such performance would not be acceptable, with or without injury. The employer would be obligated to follow disciplinary policies, which could include termination.
An injury resulting in days away from work, a transfer to another position while healing, or long-term restricted duty, can result in an employer reducing the person’s pay scale because of a change in duties or position. If the employee can no longer perform essential functions for the position in which he or she was hired, the employer may help the employee find another position within the organization at the new position’s base pay rate, which would likely be lower than the original position.
An employee who can no longer perform essential functions of the job from long-term injury effects can be terminated for business needs. Accommodations under the federal ADA law are not required if there is a loss of essential job functions. So, an injured person, whether injured at work or outside of work, risks the pain, the loss of vision, even the loss of employment, which may have all been preventable by wearing proper safety eyewear.
Better PPE available
All, however, is not gloom and doom. PPE manufacturers recognize the need for employees to wear protection. They know the statistics and know employees will likely not wear PPE that is uncomfortable, fits poorly, or simply does not function well.
Today, PPE manufacturers conduct their own research to develop protective eyewear that provides the right feel, fit, and function so employees will choose protection over risk exposure. It is the employer’s role to properly assess and select the right eyewear and the employee’s duty to wear it.
In a recent interview with Julie Trottier, Vice President of Global Commercial Marketing for Mechanix Wear®, she discussed the newest eyewear innovation freshly released, the Vision™ safety eyewear line.
“Our responsibility as an eyewear manufacturer is to find and provide solutions that offer the best level of protection while meeting the feel, fit, and function that the wearer requires,” Trottier explains. “That’s why this product line was built from the ground up. Using the same molds as everybody else could never create the innovative product our customers are looking for. Our newest Vision™ line fits all of those parameters and it’s exciting to expand our offering to the market.”
Manufacturing and distribution representatives can help with your risk assessment and providing options for safety eyewear that will meet you and your employees’ needs. Selecting and wearing the right eye protection can save on pain, recovery, and cost, whether at home or at work.