Research calls for renewed focus on eye safety equipment
The Centre for Eye Research Australia has found that more than half of the people presenting to the emergency department for eye damage caused by metal fragments were not wearing eye safety glasses at the time of their accident.
The injuries were commonly caused by high-velocity impact machining, such as metal grinding, welding, repair work and drilling.
Work-related eye injuries account for about 3,500 emergency presentations and cost the Victorian community $39 million each year. Injuries caused by metal fragments can result in corneal scarring and permanent visual impairment, as well as infection.
The study, led by Professor Rasik Vajpayee, looked at 100 patients who attended the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital Emergency Department over a two month period in 2009. Ninety-seven per cent of the patients were male.
The authors found that only 45 per cent of the patients reported wearing safety glasses at the time of the accident. Twenty-five patients had also suffered a previous eye injury caused by metal fragments, yet more than half of those were not wearing eye protection at the time of their most recent injury.
“This study has highlighted the importance of looking into whether these injuries are due to the attitude of the individuals, lack of appropriate safety apparatus, individuals not being adequately trained in occupational safety or workplace management issues such as the company not complying with safety standards,” he said.
“A second issue is the design of the safety eyewear, as 45 per cent of the injuries occurred while some form of eye protection was worn.
“The failure of the safety eyewear may have been due to the presence of gaps between the eyewear and the subject’s face, the pattern of particle emission, or the alignment of the work operation.”
The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital sees hundreds of patients with metal corneal foreign bodies each year.
Emergency Department Director, Dr Carmel Crock says: “The majority of these patients are young males who can end up with scars on the cornea. These are highly preventable injuries with appropriate safety eyewear.”
“It is important to note that these injuries are happening both in the workplace and also during ‘Do it yourself’ activities at home. We cannot stress enough the importance of using adequate safety eyewear in preventing these injuries."