The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that around 20,000 workers per year suffer some type of eye injury. Many of these injuries are entirely preventable. Employers should take steps to educate and train employees about steps to protect their eyes and prevent accidents.
If you have been injured your eye in a workplace accident, you should contact the Wilmington workers’ comp attorneys at Horton Mendez to review your options for potential compensation.
Risks of Eye Injuries on the Job
There are three major eye injury risks that workers face on the job:
- Projectiles: There are often objects flying through the air at a busy work site, including wood chips, debris, and pieces of equipment. This is, by far, the most common cause of eye injuries at work.
- Chemicals: Workers may be exposed to chemicals and solvents through the air (such as bleach) that can damage their eyes.
- Radiation: Some workplaces may have intense beams of light or radiation that can cause sudden and severe harm to the eyes.
Common Job-Related Eye Injuries
When it comes to flying debris, some of the common injuries that employees may suffer include:
- Striking or scraping of the eye
- Penetration of the eye, which leads to the loss of vision or the eye itself
- Thermal or chemical burns that can injure the eye and surrounding tissue
Examples of eye injuries that workers can suffer are:
- Punctured eyeballs
- Corneal abrasions
- Retinal damage
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage
- Acute hyphema
In the end, the main effect of any of these injuries could be a partial or complete loss of your vision. Many eye injuries are permanent. Others may result in multiple surgical procedures to restore some of the vision that you lost.
Employers Must Take Measures to Prevent Eye Injuries at Work
The responsibility is largely on the employer to prevent eye injuries at work.
The most important safety measure that the employer can take is providing the appropriate personal protective equipment for workers. For example, an eye shield may protect an employee from flying projectiles, but goggles would be necessary to prevent damage from chemicals. In addition, the protective eyewear must be adjustable or custom fitted to protect the individual employee.
Regulations from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration require that:
“The employer [must] ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.”
Thus, the employer must not only provide the proper safety equipment, but they must also ensure that you use them appropriately. Practically every eye injury on the job could be prevented by wearing protective equipment.
How Employers Can Keep You Safe from Eye Injuries
Below are some safety measures that employers should take to help prevent eye injuries on the job:
- Conducting an eye hazard assessment of the workplace and updating it as conditions change
- Checking that employees are wearing the proper eye protection at all times
- Conducting training sessions aimed at educating employees about risks and how to handle them
- Replacing protective eyewear as necessary
- Keeping solutions accessible to treat sudden thermal burn injuries
Hazards are not something that are simply unavoidable because of the nature of the work. Employers can make a situation worse through their inattention to safety and failure to take proper action. The employer could even benefit from the extra investment because employees will miss less time from work, and workers’ compensation insurance premiums could be lower.
In addition, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to protection from eye injuries. Your employer must customize their safety approach, as opposed to just handing you a pair of safety glasses.
Workers’ Compensation for Job-Related Eye Injuries
Even if you were at fault for your own eye injury, you may still be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. It does not matter who was at fault for what happened or if anyone was even at fault at all. You are still covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation policy.
If you suffered a traumatic injury to your eye, it may not be difficult to prove that you are entitled to workers’ compensation. Your case could be more challenging when your injury is due to strain from looking at a computer screen.
However, when the use of safety equipment is at issue, both you and your employer may be penalized for failure to provide or use the equipment.
For example, if the employer has willfully failed to provide you with proper safety equipment, they can face a 10% penalty on the workers’ compensation award. Similarly, you could also have your benefits reduced by 10% if you willfully violated a safety regulation, such as using personal protective equipment. It does not matter why you did not wear eye protection — you could be penalized if you failed to follow the regulations.
Nonetheless, you cannot sue your employer in a personal injury lawsuit as long as they had workers’ compensation insurance. Thus, workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy when you have suffered an eye injury on the job. You may still have disagreements with the insurance company over the extent of your injury and whether you may still be able to work in the future.
Contact a Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Attorney About Your Eye Injury Today
The attorneys at Horton & Mendez can provide you with hard-hitting legal representation in an eye injury workers’ compensation case. You should reach out to us if you have a complex workers’ compensation case or you need advice about the legal process. To speak with an attorney, you can send us a message online, or you can call us today at 910-405-7751. We offer free consultations, where you can discuss your case and what may be ahead of you.