The loss of sight can be partial or full, temporary or permanent, but whatever the extent the consequences are devastating. Losing your eyesight means a permanent change to your lifestyle, which is distressing for you and equally so for your family. It can mean financial stress due to you having to change jobs or stop working altogether, which then affects your income and standard of living. You will have to adapt to your change in circumstances, e.g. learn to use Braille, wear specially designed glasses or even make alterations to your home. These are the physical aspects of your injury, but don’t forget the psychological aspects as well. A serious injury such as this causes feelings of anger, frustration and shock and takes time to come to terms with.

Let’s hope no one ever has to go through this and we understand how this happens and what we can do to protect our precious sight.

First, can the hazard be eliminated? Areas and tasks are identified where eye protection is a requirement. Even in areas where eye protection is not normally required, conditions can change so that eye protection is required. We know that the need for eye protection is without question a YES. We may look at the job though and think to ourselves is there a better way of doing something like using a guard/shield or stepping to the side instead of standing right in front that would help reduce the risk. The next step would be choosing the right protection.

Dust Goggles, chemical goggles, standard safety glasses, face shield or even a full-face respirator.

How do you know what to choose? Hazards will fall into the basic categories of impact, splash, and optical radiation. The most common need for eye protection is impact protection, which includes flying particles, explosions, and other hazards. Safety spectacles with a clear lens are the most common choice for impact protection.

Safety Glasses: When choosing a pair of safety glasses, whether non-prescription or prescription, choose one that offers side protection as required by OSHA 29 CFR-1910.133 “Eye/Face Protection.” Also, consider the fit of a “universal” fitting spectacle or choose one with fit adjustment features.

Safety glasses usually provide satisfactory protection for most impacts, but there are circumstances, such as a fragmenting grinding wheel, when a spectacle doesn’t provide adequate protection. When greater impact protection is needed, goggles and/or face shields should be used along with safety glasses.

Goggles: Safety goggles are larger and cover more of the orbital area of the eye, so they offer more protection than glasses, and should be used whenever there is a need for a higher level of impact protection.

Different types of goggles include flexible goggles, where the shroud or mask portion is made of a soft and comfortable PVC or rubber; cup goggles that are rigid; and the new hybrid type, which is a modified spectacle with a secondary adapter that complies with the requirements of a goggle (a spoggle).

If you need to wear a goggle over prescription glasses, choose one that completely covers the glasses without applying excess pressure. Keep in mind that impact goggles usually have direct ventilation, which means dust will take a direct path to the eyes. In this case, be sure to use an indirect ventilation goggle, such as a splash goggle. 

Face shields: Since face shields include a large lens or window attached to a headgear or a hard hat, they protect a portion of the face along with the eyes. Some are designed to include protection to the neck, side of face, portion of the head and/or ears. While they provide high levels of impact protection, they should never be worn alone. Use face shields in conjunction with safety glasses and/or goggles.

Splash Hazards

A splash can be defined as a spatter or spray of a hot, cold, or hazardous liquid, a fine powder, or a mist. Most types of impact protection and safety spectacles are not the right choice for protection from splash or dust hazards. Spectacles offer limited coverage and protection from splashes.

Splash goggles: The most common eye protection device for a splash is a chemical splash goggle with indirect ventilation, which allows air to flow into and out of a goggle but doesn’t provide a direct path to the eyes from a powder, dust, or liquid. Due to the limited ventilation within a splash goggle, try to choose a goggle lens with an anti-fog coating to help eliminate moisture condensation from obstructing vision.

Face shields: Because splash goggles protect only the eye area, face shields offer increased coverage against splashes. But remember they should always be worn with splash goggles under them to provide a high level of protection from splashes. Face-shield windows come in many materials, so analyze the options and choose the material best suited to offer protection from the particular hazardous splash.

Now close your eyes and answer this question - What do you see?

Life would be pretty hard if that is all you could ever see even if you lost sight in just one eye. So let’s keep both eyes open and watch out for hazards!