Eye protection in construction work

Abogado Christopher J. Gorayeb

Eye protection in construction work is essential to safely perform their tasks. Different tasks on a construction site are known for their inherent risks, requiring meticulous protection protocols and a high level of technical expertise. Vision is a fundamental element for their proper execution.

Unlike other parts of the body, the eyes stand out for their sensitivity, making them susceptible to irreversible damage when exposed to potential hazards. Hence, the consistent use of eye safety equipment in construction becomes not just a precautionary measure but an indispensable practice throughout the entirety of construction activities.

Recognizing the diverse risks in construction work is the first step in the prevention of eye injuries. Each task within a construction site carries its own set of potential risks and hazards, needing a comprehensive understanding of the specific risks involved. By identifying and acknowledging these risks, workers can perform their duties equipped with the required knowledge to mitigate potential threats to the overall health of their eyes. This approach enforces the commitment to creating and maintaining a safe working environment.

Ensuring applying safety measures in the construction industry requires a holistic approach, and the commitment to eye protection forms a main approach to maintaining the construction workers safe. Construction tasks are as diverse as the materials used, each presenting its own set of challenges and potential risks to the eyes. Therefore, the identification of these risks is one of the most crucial steps toward a proactive and comprehensive prevention strategy regarding the eyes and vision of the workers.

Top Causes Requiring Eye and Facial Protection in Construction

Here are some of the main causes of eye injuries faced by construction workers:

1. Particles

Particles are a constant and inevitable presence on all construction sites. When they enter the eye, they can cause eye damage. Common construction materials such as bricks, cement, wood, or metals can release particles, which can come into contact with workers’ eyes in two ways:

    1. Performing activities: Certain construction tasks (cutting, planing, hammering, lifting, or welding) and using specific tools, machinery, or electrical equipment can cause particles to dislodge and enter the worker’s eyes. Therefore, it is essential to use the appropriate eye protection equipment for the task at hand.
    2. Windborne: Workers can suffer eye injuries from particles even when not actively working. The concentration of particles on construction sites can be so dense that wind may cause them to enter the eyes. Hence, it is advisable for construction workers to wear safety glasses in different areas of the site, even when not actively working.

When a worker perceives particles in their eyes, they should:

    • Seek immediate medical attention.
    • Avoid rubbing, rubbing, or attempting to remove particles from the eyes.
    • Rinse the eye area with water.
    • If eye discomfort is severe, immobilize the eyes with a loose bandage.

2. Chemical Splashes

Chemical substances are commonly present on construction sites, including solvents, paints, and chemical solutions. When these substances come into contact with the eyes, workers should immediately suspend their tasks and seek medical attention. Recommendations for dealing with chemicals in the eyes include:

    • Go to the nearest water source.
    • Tilt the head under the stream and look directly into the water.
    • Use fingers to open the eyes, allowing water to enter and remove any chemical substance.

3. Burns

Burn injuries are a constant risk in construction, caused by tools such as torches or intense light sources (e.g., those used for nighttime roadwork). These risks become particularly pronounced during nighttime roadwork, where the reliance on powerful lighting increases. The eyes, being exceptionally sensitive organs, are more susceptible to burn injuries.

The potential consequence of a burn injury is often signaled by the initial manifestation of a gritty sensation in the eyes. This discomfort is a crucial early warning sign, urging immediate attention to minimize the impact on ocular health. When confronted with such symptoms, it is paramount for workers to seek immediate medical attention. Burns can have severe and lasting effects, and timely intervention is vital to prevent further complications.

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4. Blows to the Eyes

Construction sites are characterized by the circulation of heavy machinery and the potential for objects to fall from elevated work areas. These present an ongoing risk of violent blows to the eye area. Despite the use of appropriate protective equipment, such as safety goggles or face shields, workers can still experience violent blows to the eye area. In an eye blow, immediate action is crucial to mitigate the potential consequences.

Recommendations for when a worker experiences a forceful blow to the eyes:

    • Seek immediate medical assistance.
    • Apply a cold compress to the affected area. This helps alleviate both pain and swelling, providing some relief while awaiting medical assistance.

Types of Eye and Facial Protection

Using protective eyewear for construction or construction safety gear is mandatory for workers. The most common types of eye and facial protection fall into two main categories:

1. Protective Eyewear

The safety goggles for construction work focuses on the eye area and can be divided into two types:

    1. Safety glasses with universal frame: These glasses are the most commonly used type, consisting of lenses, a frame, and a simple securing mechanism. They provide basic protection and are suitable for construction tasks with a low risk of eye injuries.
    2. Safety glasses with integral frame: These glasses are also known as panoramic safety glasses, they surround the entire eye area, offering maximum eye protection. They are essential for construction workers involved in high-risk tasks.

2. Face Shields

Face shields offer broader protection, covering not only the eye area but also the worker’s face. They typically consist of a shield and, in some cases, a mounting system that can be attached to a helmet. Different types of face shields include:

    • Handheld face shield: Workers hold these face shields in front of their faces with their hands.
    • Full-face shield: These face shields cover the face, throat, and neck.
    • Mounted face shield: These face shields can be attached to a helmet.

Use and Maintenance of Personal Visual Protection Equipment

To ensure their safety, workers must be trained by their employers on the use and maintenance of personal visual protection equipment. Here are some key recommendations:

  1. Visually inspect the equipment before use to ensure it is in good condition. If any defects are found, do not use the equipment and report it to your employer.
  2. Ensure that the grip pieces of the glasses touch the head on each side and can be comfortably adjusted behind the ears.
  3. Check that the elastic straps for adjustment are free of cracks and can stretch safely.
  4. If the lens protection is scratched or damaged, discard the equipment and report it to your employer.
  5. Ensure you can work comfortably with the glasses or shield in place. If you feel discomfort that hinders your work, request equipment from your employer that fits your face better.

How Can a Gorayeb Lawyer Help a Worker with an Eye Injury?

When a worker suffers an eye injury, they have the right to contact a skilled construction accident lawyer to seek comprehensive compensation. This compensation may cover:

  • All medical expenses.
  • Reimbursement for lost wages.
  • Compensation for pain and suffering (referring to psychological and emotional injuries resulting from the accident, which can be claimed by a responsible third party).
  • The ability to recover alongside their family without financial concerns.

If you or a loved one has suffered an eye injury at work, Gorayeb & Associates is ready to seek justice in your case. Call us today or fill out this form to request a free consultation. Our legal team speaks Spanish and is available 24/7.

Remember that your employer is obligated to provide eye protection in construction work. If your work involves risks to your eyes, demand that the necessary equipment be provided free of charge to ensure safe work.

Abogado Christopher J. Gorayeb

Information verified by Attorney Christopher J. Gorayeb

Founder of Gorayeb & Associates, P.C.

As one of the most preeminent personal injury lawyers in New York City, Christopher J. Gorayeb brings over 35 years of experience in litigating construction accident cases to the law firm.

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