With the increasing trend in work-related eye injuries, it is important for us to critically look at eyes at work in industrial settings. In most cases, eye injuries from such settings are either fatal or irreversible and the consequences can be very disastrous. Working in certain kinds of job makes one susceptible to some levels of hazards; using lasers, mining, handling hazardous chemicals, welding, grinding, and even farming can pose a threat to one’s eye health and general health.
Are we supposed to quit such jobs?
For many people, life itself is a risk, and they believe taking daily risk is far better than sitting and languishing in poverty. In my opinion, yes, life is a risk, yet, risk can be calculated and the barest level of safety employed. It is estimated that three out of five injured workers were not wearing any form of protection at all. This makes the impact of the injury more grievous and more incapacitating.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a vital part of every workplace according to the Occupational Health and Safety Acts. Employers are mandated to provide a working environment that is healthy, safe and without risks. Evidence has shown that wearing PPE reduced risk of work-related injuries by as much as 70%. We are going to look extensively on the various eye hazards exposed to industry workers of different sectors, with emphasis on the kind of protection that can improve safety.
Working in the radiology department in hospitals or cancer treatment centres can pose some measure of risk. Radiation is energy that travels in the form of waves or high-speed particles. It occurs naturally in sunlight. Man-Made radiations have various applications; diagnostic X-rays used to determine the extent of disease or physical injury, radiation therapy used in disease management and many others. Exposure to small amounts of radiation over a long time is a medical risk. So it becomes extremely important to protect all areas of the body, even from the smallest exposures. Radiation exposures raise the risk of cancers, gene mutation, swellings and skin burn. One of the most significant impacts on the eyes is the development of posterior subcapsular cataracts within few months. Other common symptoms include a decrease in eyesight sharpness and focus, loss of ability to see objects in bright sunlight and increased glare.
The best way to protect the eyes from these radiations is to wear LEAD GLASSES.
Lead glasses come in different styles and designs. When purchasing lead safety glasses, it is important to purchase lead safety glasses with a glass lens instead of a plastic lens. Glass lenses are 10 times more effective at preventing exposure to x-ray radiation than plastic lenses.
Working with chemicals as a chemist, a laboratory scientist or a chemical engineer requires great tact. Some of these chemicals are injurious. Even with the greatest tact, there could be situations of unforeseen splash which can damage the skin, the face or the eyes, depending on the site of impact. It is therefore expedient that safety measures are well inculcated on a daily basis.
Welding arc gives off a wide range of radiation in various wavelengths. They include ultraviolet (UV) radiation (200 to 400 nm), visible light (400 to 700 nm), and infrared (IR) radiation (700 to 1,400 nm). UV-radiation is divided into three ranges – UV-A (315 to 400 nm), UV-B (280 to 315 nm) and UV-C (100 to 280 nm). UV-C and almost all UV-B are absorbed in the cornea of the eye. UV-A passes through the cornea and is absorbed in the lens of the eye.
Some UV radiation, visible light, and IR radiation can reach the retina.
Most welders complain of pain, tearing and redness of the eye, the sensation of “sand in the eye” or abnormal sensitivity to light, inability to look at light sources (photophobia). This is because certain types of UV radiation cause injury to the surface of the conjunctiva of the eye. This is popularly called the ‘árc eye’ or welders’ eye’. Without the right kind of protection, prolonged exposure can result in what is known as Blue Light Hazard, which is the temporary or permanent scarring of the retina due to its sensitivity to blue light. Blindness may result.
Exposure to infrared light can heat the lens of the eye and produce cataracts over the long term.
Every welder is expected to get protective shields that protect from all forms of UV, and infrared radiation, not just to use a piece of glass to cover the eyes. A welder, who decides to go ahead with his bare eyes, possibly has a contract with blindness.
Next: Eyes at Work (Episode 4)