Eye hazards are materials or conditions that have the potential to cause eye injuries.
They include dust, projectiles/flying objects (fragments, chips and pieces of materials like wood, metal and glass), chemical splashes, toxic fumes, hot air or splashes of hot fluid, strong light/harmful radiation and infectious materials.
Injuries caused by these hazards can range from mild to severe and can cause permanent vision loss. The risk that an eye hazard will cause an injury depends on factors such as:
- The type of hazard
- How much of the hazard an individual is exposed to
- How often the exposure to the hazard occurs
- The effect of exposure to the hazard
- The duration of exposure to the hazard
Knowledge of the eye hazards in your environment, the associated risk factors and the level of risk the hazards pose to the eyes is important for adequate eye protection. This is why hazard assessments are done at regular intervals in organizations with positive safety culture.
There are five major types of hazards that can be found around us at work, home, playground, sports arena, other recreation centres and more. They include:
Dust is a very common eye hazard. Depending on the environment and nature of activity, it may be difficult to avoid dust. Activities that can expose the eyes to dust include wood work, building construction/demolition, walking/working outdoor or riding in a dry windy environment. Exposure of the eyes to dust can cause eye irritation, allergies, dry eyes as well as eye infection. In situations where dust is unavoidable, safety eyewear that has tight seal around the eyes provides adequate eye protection.
Impact hazards are solid objects that can cause eye injuries when they hit the eye. Examples include the cement chips, wood particles, metal fragments, elbow, fist, work tools, toys, sports equipment and other flying or falling objects. They often cause injuries when in motion. Injuries caused by impact hazards range from minor scratches on the eye lid or cornea to sight-threatening penetrating/perforating eye injuries.
Activities that expose the eyes to impact hazards include sawing, drilling, chiselling, sand blasting, playing sports with balls or baton, mason work, use of hammers, use of fireworks as well as working with machines that have lose parts. Well-fitted impact-resistant wraparound safety glasses or those with side shields usually provide adequate protection against impact hazards
Common chemical hazards include laboratory chemicals, paint thinners, petroleum products, pesticides, bleach and other household cleaning agents. Exposure of the eyes to chemical hazards occur when there are splashes, spills, fuming or vaporization of chemicals. The injuries they cause range from mild irritation to vision threatening burns. Safety goggles are the recommended safety eyewear for protection against chemical hazards.
Heat hazards are high temperatures situations and substances that cause burns and other injuries. They include splashes of hot fluid, heat from ovens and furnaces, hot sparks, molten materials and fire. Some activities that expose the eyes to these hazards include catering, furnace operations, and welding. High temperature resistant safety glasses or goggles can protect the eyes from heat hazards
These are conditions or materials that expose the eyes to high amounts of harmful radiation such ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation and reflected light radiation. They include UV radiation from the sun, glare and reflections from surfaces (like water, vehicles and smooth surfaces) as well as welding and laser operations.
Exposure to harmful radiation can cause eye conditions like retinal burns, ptergium, cataract, macular denegeration and blindness. Protection against radiation hazards require the use of safety eyewear with appropriate tints and filters that adequately block the harmful radiation.
These are substances or items that have been contaminated with disease-causing organisms (germs). They can cause eye infections is they come in contact with the eyes. Examples include blood, body wastes (urine and faeces), dirty hands, handkerchief or towel. Activities and conditions that can expose the eyes to these hazards include patient care, medical lab work and poor hand hygiene and unsafe sharing of personal items like towel and eye makeup products.