With March just around the corner, eyecare professionals (ECPs) are focusing their attention on Workplace Eye Awareness Month. Each year, thousands of Americans experience some form of workplace eye injury. These types of injuries can be the result of many things, ranging from chemical spills to sharp objects. Many ECPs are also trying to educate their patients about the risks of spending too many hours in front of the computer, which can cause digital eyestrain.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, approximately 25,000 Americans are sent to the emergency room each year with a workplace eye injury.

Despite warnings from experts, eye-related injury in the workplace persists, with more than 18,500 eye-related injury or illness cases that resulted in at least one day away from work in 2020, according to the Bureau. This is an incident rate of 1.7 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.

More than 11,900 cases were the result of objects or equipment, with 59 percent the result of workers rubbing or being abraded by some type of foreign matter. Meanwhile, more than 35 percent were the result of being struck in the eye by an object or equipment.

Harmful substances were also one of the most common causes of workplace injury, with more than 4,800 cases. Violence and other injuries accounted for 1,200 cases.

According to the American Optometric Association, eye injuries were most commonly sustained from the following:

  • Projectiles, including dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles

  • Chemicals, including splashes and fumes

  • Radiation, especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers

  • Bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis or HIV from blood and body fluids

Digital eyestrain has also become one of the major contributors to eye injuries at work. In 2023, VMAIL reported that 78 percent of employees had issues with their eyes. These issues negatively impacted their productivity and performance at work due to eyestrain and blurry vision, according to the 2023 Transitions Workplace Wellness Survey.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the best way to prevent eye injuries is by wearing safety eyewear such as goggles, face shields or respirators that protect against hazards. It is also important to ensure that protective eyewear is not cracked or scratched. It should also fit the face correctly.

Providing patients and employees with a comprehensive education program is key to ensure that these rules are followed and that additional steps are taken to prevent eye injuries at work. Many resources are now available for workplaces and eyecare providers to help reduce the instances of eye injuries in the workplace. Below, VMAIL Weekend outlines programs and resources for ECPs and employees. These tools can be shared with employers to ensure they are doing all they can to project their staff from injury.

Employer Eye Safety Programs

ECPs can help employers stay ahead of injury by offering resources and information about safety programs. These programs provide the tools and resources employers need to keep their teams safe from eye injury, and offers instruction on how to react in the event of an emergency.

Prevent Blindness
Healthy Eyes Education Series for Employers
The Healthy Eyes Educational Series helps build awareness among clients, coworkers, employees or cohorts about the importance of eye and vision health, common adult vision disorders, eye safety precautions and proactive behaviors that give workers the best chance for a lifetime of healthy vision.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Eye and Face Protection Program
OSHA has set up a collection of resources for employers that touch on the most common eye injuries, including radiant energy and water contamination. The agency has also included prevention tips from leading experts and organizations across the U.S.

Eyesafe Program
This Canadian-based program helps ensure manager compliance and offers resources and information for employees.

Canadian National Institute for the Blind
The CNIB Foundation’s Industrial Eye Safety Program
This program features a 60-minute workshop that includes real-life stories, attention-getting visuals, and personal testimonials. Participants will leave the session with a better understanding of the personal cost of eye injury, motivating them to be diligent about wearing appropriate eye protection and following workplace safety protocols.

National Safety Compliance
Eye Safety Training Course
This program introduces employees to eye safety in the workplace using proper controls, personal protective equipment (PPE) and common-sense measures.

ECP Education
Eyecare providers can also enhance their education programs through learning tools and resources provided by industry experts and optical associations.

American Academy of Ophthalmology
Printable Infographics for Workplace Eye Wellness
Increase the awareness of patients and employers with downloadable images and resource sheets you can share on your social media and display in your office. These visuals drive home the importance of wearing protective eyewear and list the latest statistics on injuries at work.

The International Agency for Preventing Blindness
Workplace Resources
Tool kits and resources to help ECPs and employers educate and raise awareness about eye health in the workplace.

Prevent Blindness: National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health
Eye Health and Safety Fact Sheets
Worksheets, quizzes and infographics offering the latest information on vision protection in the workplace.

  Workplace Eye Injuries

Eye injuries can occur at any workplace. According to the American Optometric Association, workers in these industries were the most likely to experience and eye injury:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Carpentry
  • Auto repair
  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Maintenance