Protecting your eyes in the workplace

It takes less than a minute to don safety eyewear – and a millisecond to do permanent damage without them.

According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, over 700 Canadian workers sustain eye injuries resulting in lost time and/or temporary or permanent vision loss every day. Simply using the proper eye protection on the job could prevent 90% of these eye injuries from occurring.

There are different types of protective eyewear each designed to protect against different hazards and should be selected based on a hazard assessment of each work activity. 

Types of protective eyewear include:

  • Safety glasses – provide eye protection for general working conditions where there may be dust, chips or flying particles. Side shields can provide some additional protection.
  • Goggles – provide impact, dust and chemical splash protection to protect against hazards coming from any direction
  • Face shields and helmets – protect workers exposed to chemicals, heat, or bloodborne pathogens. NB. Face shields and helmets should not be used as the sole means of protective eyewear. They need to be used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles. 
  • Special protection – other types of protection, such as helmets or goggles with special filters to protect the eyes from optical radiation exposure, should be used for tasks such as welding or working with lasers.

Here are five things you can do to protect your eyes from injury:

  1. Know the eye safety dangers of your work 
  2. Eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, work screens or other engineering controls
  3. Use safety eyewear designed to protect against your specific workplace hazards
  4. Ensure your safety eyewear fits properly and is comfortable to wear and provides unrestricted vision and movement
  5. Keep your safety eyewear in good condition and have it replaced if it becomes damaged