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NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

NIOSH Safety and Health Topic:

Eye Safety

Eye Safety

Images of workers wearing a face shield, a welding helmet, a pair of shaded goggles, and safety glasses

Topic Index

Eye Safety for Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery
Eye Protection for Infection Control
Eye Safety Tool Box Talk
Contact Lens Use in a Chemical Environment

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Eyeballman - Use them or Lose them

Each day about 2000 U.S. workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days of lost work. The majority of these injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye. Examples include metal slivers, wood chips, dust, and cement chips that are ejected by tools, wind blown, or fall from above a worker. Some of these objects, such as nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal penetrate the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision. Large objects may also strike the eye/face, or a worker may run into an object causing blunt force trauma to the eyeball or eye socket. Chemical burns to one or both eyes from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common. Thermal burns to the eye occur as well. Among welders, their assistants, and nearby workers, UV radiation burns (welder’s flash) routinely damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.

In addition to common eye injuries, health care workers, laboratory staff, janitorial workers, animal handlers, and other workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure. Infectious diseases can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a result of direct exposure (e.g., blood splashes, respiratory droplets generated during coughing or suctioning) or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects. The infections may result in relatively minor conjunctivitis or reddening/soreness of the eye or in a life threatening disease such as HIV, B virus, or possibly even avian influenza.

Engineering controls should be used to reduce eye injuries and to protect against ocular infection exposures. Personal protective eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full face respirators must also be used when an eye hazard exists. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations depends upon the nature and extent of the hazard, the circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and personal vision needs. Eye protection should be fit to an individual or adjustable to provide appropriate coverage. It should be comfortable and allow for sufficient peripheral vision. Selection of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based on a hazard assessment of each activity, including regulatory requirements when applicable.

NIOSH Eye Safety Resources

Eye Safety - Emergency Response & Disaster Recovery
Provides an overview of eye hazards and injuries, plus information on types of eye protection, safety for prescription lens wearers, and first aid.

Eye Protection for Infection Control
Provides background information and specific details on eye protection used to supplement eye protection recommendations provided in current CDC infection control guidance documents. It is intended to familiarize workers with the various types of eye protection available, their characteristics, and their applicable use.

Eye Safety Tool Box Talk
Provides an example tool box talk on eye protection for construction workers.

Contact Lens Use in a Chemical Environment
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 2005-139 (June 2005)
Provides safety guidelines for contact lens wearers working in chemical environments.

Occupational Eye Injury Statistics

The NIOSH Work-Related Injury Statistics Query System (Work-RISQS) provides national estimates and rates of occupational injuries and illnesses treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. To obtain annual occupational eye injury statistics do queries based on 'Part of Body = eyeball'.

Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses
External Link:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts an annual survey of employers to assess nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in U.S. private industry. Eye injury statistics are provided for OSHA recordable incidents that involve days away from work (see Nonfatal injuries and illnesses case and demographic characteristics sections for Part of Body = eye). BLS has provided summaries for 2002 and 2004.

Health Hazard Evaluations and Fatality Reports

NIOSH conducts Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs) to find out whether there are health hazards to employees caused by exposures or conditions in the workplace.

Some recent HHE reports related to eye safety have been listed below. For a comprehensive listing of HHE reports please search the HHE Database.


NIOSHTIC-2 logois a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.

NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Eye Safety

Other Resources

American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection Devices, ANSI Z87.1-2003
External Link:
The standard provides performance-based criteria for manufacturing and testing of common industrial forms of safety eye protection such as safety glasses (prescription and non-prescription), goggles, faceshields, welding helmets, and full-face respirators. Additionally the standard includes a safety eye protection selection guide and an eye injury incident reporting form.

Avian Influenza - Protecting Poultry Workers at Risk
External Link:
This OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin is a product of the OSHA-NIOSH Issues Exchange Group. It describes measures for protecting poultry workers when an avian influenza outbreak occurs. This document complements avian population disease control and eradication strategies of state governments, industry, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will aid in the development of biosecurity guidelines and standard operating procedures for the various sectors of the poultry industry.
this document in PDF also available in PDF (47 KB (8 pages))

NIOSH Alert: Protecting Poultry Workers from Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2008-128 (2008)
Provides guidance to employers and workers about protecting poultry workers from exposure to avian influenza viruses (May 2008)

Hazard Alert — Eye Injuries in Construction
From the Center to Protect Workers' Rights, this document provides general information on eye protection with an emphasis on welding.

Healthy Vision 2010
External Link:
Provides information along with baseline data on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sponsored goals to reduce eye injuries among American workers.

How Much Eye Protection is Enough?
From the Electronic Library of Construction Safety and Health (eCLOSH), this document covers hazard assessment, types of eye protection, and information about proper fitting.

National Ag Safety Database (NASD): Eye Protection
Provides basic information on preventing eye injuries.

National Ag Safety Database (NASD): Eye Protection for Farmers
Provides information on causes for farm-related eye injuries, types of eye protection, basic first aid.

OSHA Eye and Face Protection eTool
External Link:
Provides information on hazard assessment, selecting protective devices, and OSHA requirements.

OSHA Safety & Health Topic: Eye and Face Protection
External Link:
Covers OSHA and ANSI standards for eye protection, hazard recognition and possible solutions.

OSHA Safety & Health Topic: Compliance Assistance Success Story—Saddle Creek Corporation Provides Forklift and Golf Cart Drivers with Eye Protection
External Link:
After reviewing the number of eye injuries experienced by its forklift and golf cart operators, a corporation implemented a formal eye protection program that resulted in eye injury incidents and related workers’ compensation costs dropping over the next 5 years.

Toolbox Talk: Eye Safety
From the Electronic Library of Construction Safety and Health (eCLOSH), this document discusses how and why eye injuries occur in the workplace and what to do to prevent them.


Page last updated: July 23, 2008
Page last reviewed: May 13, 2008
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)