Vancouver, August 28, 2008 – B.C. optometrists with the Occupational Vision Plan (OVP) are calling for B.C. companies to pay more attention to workers’ eye safety as the recently released WorkSafeBC statistics reveal a lack of improvement in the number of work-related eye injuries.
“It is surprising how many employers and employees continue to disregard the seriousness of eye injuries sustained at work,” says Dr. Don Vinge, an OVP optometrist. “People don’t realize that most eye injuries in the workplace can be prevented by taking simple safety precautions and wearing proper safety eyewear.”
But before choosing appropriate safety glasses, Dr. Vinge recommends that businesses and employees consult with a B.C. optometrist because “they can provide insight as to what best protects the eyes when working in different environments or with specific hazardous materials.”
In 2007, 1,882 eye injury claims were accepted by WorkSafeBC for either short-term or long-term benefits. While the number of eye injuries remains mostly unchanged since 2006, the number of workdays lost due to injury has increased significantly from 17,319 in 2006 to 18,020 in 2007.
The following 10 tips by the B.C. Association of Optometrists can help reduce these numbers by keeping workers’ eyes healthy and safe on the job:
1. Be aware of eye hazards. If you work in an industrial setting, do a thorough inspection of the workplace to identify potential hazards, including impact risks, loose foreign objects, splash risks, man-made or natural UV radiation, airborne particulate levels, and low ambient lighting.
2. Wear appropriate safety eyewear. It isn’t just common sense, it’s the law. British Columbia’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, administered by WorkSafeBC, states: “a worker must wear properly fitting safety eyewear appropriate to the conditions of the workplace if handling or exposed to materials which are likely to injure or irritate the eyes.”
3. Keep your safety glasses on at all times. Even when you wear other protection like a welding helmet or face shield, it’s important to keep your safety glasses on. Flying chips or dust can get under the shield if you lift the visor.
4. Make sure your eyewear is comfortable and snug-fitting. Your eyewear should fit you snugly around the eyeball. If it slips easily from your eyes, you can see from the sides of your eyewear or if light is still coming in, you need another well-fitted pair.
5. Don't wear contact lenses on site. Dust and other particles can collect underneath the lens. If you must wear contacts for medical reasons, be sure to wear appropriate eye protection as well.
6. Clean eyeglass lenses with water or a lens-cleaning solution. This will help dirt gently float away from the eyeglasses and reduce the likelihood of scratching the lenses, which can eventually interfere with vision.
7. Take a computer vision break. If you work at a computer, take a 10-minute break from the computer screen to do something else every two hours. Make sure your screen is 10 to 20 degrees below your eye level. Angle your computer to avoid glare from light sources. Consult with your optometrist about special computer lenses that are available.
8. Wear UV eye protection. If you regularly work outside, wear glasses with anti-UV coatings or sunglasses with protection from both UV-A and UV-B rays. There is no regulation requiring employers to provide outside workers with UV eye protection from natural sources, so it’s up to you to protect your eyes.
9. Don’t delay in treating eye accidents. If anything touches or irritates your eyes, see your first-aid attendant immediately. If irritation continues, have a co-worker, friend or taxi take you to medical aid.
10. Have regular, comprehensive eye exams. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam every two years, and immediately when any changes in vision occur. People with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year.
The Occupational Vision Plan (OVP) is a prescription safety eyewear program operated by the B.C. Association of Optometrists. The plan assists many companies and organizations to help their employees be prescribed and fitted with proper prescription safety eyewear that meets CSA requirements and WorkSafeBC regulations. With a province-wide network of more than 270 optometrists, OVP has been providing expert eye care and leading prescription safety eyewear to B.C. workplaces for more than 20 years. For more information on eye health, or to locate an OVP optometrist near you, visit www.ovp.bc.ca.
For 2008 WorkSafeBC eye injury statistics table or to arrange an interview, contact: