Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, Oswalt & Smith

Can an unsafe work environment cause permanent eye damage?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has eyewash requirements for certain types of facilities nationwide, including Pennsylvania. Industries that work with corrosive materials must protect workers from suffering eye injuries that can be extremely painful. If not treated promptly, it could cause permanent damage to the sight of the injured workers and leave them permanently disabled.

Under federal and state laws, your employer is responsible for your health and safety. However, putting all your trust in your employer might not be a good idea. If you know for which workplace hazards to look out, you could take precautions to avoid eye injuries.

Does your job pose eye injury hazards?

If your job exposes you to materials that are corrosive, flammable, explosive, toxic or oxidizing, there would be a potential eye injury risk. Substances that qualify as health hazards or irritants also justify eye protection. While wearing safety glasses to protect your eyes, accidents could happen, and even the tiniest drop of hazardous material can cause blindness.

Checklist for eye safety

For your own protection, it might be a good idea to gain knowledge of the safety standards with which your employer must comply. If you can recognize the risks, you can also take precautions to avoid harm. Safety authorities expect employers to take the following steps to mitigate hazards:

  • You should have access to eyewash stations for quick flushing or drenching of your eyes and body in the event of contact with hazardous materials.
  • The eyewash stations must comply with the standards of the American National Standards Institute.
  • ANSI requires that an eyewash or drenching station be where you and your co-workers can reach it within 10 seconds -- they say that equates to a distance of approximately 55 feet.
  • Activate eyewash stations at regular intervals. Even if no one used it for some time, occasional activation could test its functionality.
  • Annual tests can ensure that it complies with required standards.
  • Testing can ensure that water flow is steady and that it maintains a consistent tepid temperature.
  • Water that is too cold can cause discomfort, and too much heat can cause additional damage to your eyes.
  • Proper signage will ensure that all workers can locate eyewash stations in emergencies.

While checking all the above standards, you could also make frequent checks to ensure that routes to the eyewash stations are free of random objects that could jeopardize quick access to them.

What will be your options if you suffer eye injuries?

If you suffer eye injuries after exposure to corrosive or other hazardous materials, you will be entitled to workers' compensation insurance benefits to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. If the injuries caused permanent eye damage or blindness, you might receive additional benefits. Making sure you receive all the applicable benefits could be a challenge with which an experienced Pennsylvania attorney can assist.

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