Personal protective equipment (PPE) is important for agricultural producers to reduce their risk of injury or death. Most eye injuries can be prevented by wearing the appropriate PPE.
Injuries to the eye can be expensive, painful, and may cause partial or total blindness. Proper eye protection is the best strategy in preventing eye injuries because most eye injuries are a result of flying particles. The eye has its own built-in protection from the surrounding bone structure, eyelashes, tearing, and blinking; but they are no match for particles entering the eye at a high rate of speed. Eye protection should be worn when completing the following types of jobs: feed grinding, handling chemicals, haying, welding, repairing equipment, and any task completed in a dusty environment.
Types of Eye Protection
There are 5 types of eye protection. Choose the type that best suits your vision and provides the best protection for the job that you are completing.
Basic Safety Glasses
(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)
A pair of basic safety glasses provides protection when there is potential for particles to enter the eye from the front. Safety lenses in regular eyeglass frames are not considered suitable safety glasses. Most basic safety glasses do not provide side protection, but side protection is available on some safety glasses through either permanent or detachable side shields to protect the eye from above, below and on the sides. When choosing safety glasses with side protection, make sure that the sides do not interfere with your peripheral vision.
Prescription Safety Glasses
(Source: Safe Vision, LLC)
Prescription safety glasses are made of either plastic or metal and are available in both bifocals and tinted lenses. Use caution when choosing tinted lenses because these lenses take time for the tinting to disappear which can be hazardous when frequently going between inside and outside work areas. Choose tint lenses when activities may include bright flashes of light.
(Source: Safeway Safety Supplies)
Goggles provide inexpensive protection from all angles because they fit snugly around the eyes. This type of eye protection is especially good for jobs such as chainsaw operation, grinding, and riveting. Goggles are especially useful because they typically fit over most prescription eyeglasses and are usually ventilated with an anti-fog solution. Two of the most common models of goggles are eyecup or wire mesh. If working around chemicals, choose goggles with off-set ventilation ports.
Face shields are secondary protection and must be worn in conjunction with either glasses or goggles. This type of eye protection is especially designed to protect the user from heat, glare, and flying objects. Face shields can be attached to hard hats for those jobs that also require head protection.
Welding Helmets and Goggles
A welding helmet is equipped with special filtering lenses that protect the eyes from the strong ultraviolet and infrared rays that can permanently damage eyes and cause blindness. Welding goggles have various filter lens shades to protect against sparks, rays, and flying particles. Talk with your local dealer to determine the filter lens shade that you need for the various types of welding. Stationary or lift-front lenses are available for both welding helmets and goggles.
Standards for Eye Protection
ANSI and ISEA standards for eye protection are determined based on the identified hazard in the workplace. Lenses that are ranked as basic are designated as Z87, but high impact lenses have a Z87+ designation.
Additional recommendations concerning eye protection include the following:
- Do not share eye protection to reduce the risk of contracting a contagious eye disease from another worker.
- Even though sunglasses are important for working outdoors, they are not considered to be eye protection.
Maintenance of Eye Protection
Regularly clean your protective eyewear in warm, soapy water because looking through dirty lenses can strain your eyes. Use a soft tissue or cloth to dry the lenses to reduce the risk of scratches because deep scratches or pitting may weaken the lenses. Goggles should fit snuggly over your eyes so replace elastic goggle headbands when they become stretched. Store your protective eyewear in a rigid case to reduce dust build-up and potential damage to delicate parts.
Maintain proper vision by having your eyes examined annually. Vision changes can occur that may require a prescription change or the need for prescription eye protection. If you wear contacts, always wear protective eyewear in work areas. The recommendation is to wear prescription eye protection instead of contacts especially in dusty environments because contact lenses may trap particles in the eye.
First Aid for Eye Injuries
The following chart outlines the first aid response to different eye injuries:
|Type of Injury||Proper Treatment||Actions to Avoid|
|Foreign particle in the eye||Flush the eye with water until the object rinses out. If unable to flush the particle out, cover the eye and seek medical attention.||Do not rub your eye because your eye could be scratched or embed the object.|
|Object embedded in the eye||Bandage both eyes and seek medical attention||Do not attempt to remove the object.|
|Cut near the eye||Loosely bandage both eyes and seek medical attention||Do not rub, press, or wash the cut because it could cause further damage.|
|Bump or bruise near the eye||Apply a cold compress for 15 minutes to reduce swell and seek medical attention.|
|Welding arc burn||Keep eyes closed and seek medical attention. The victim may or may not feel pain immediately but eye may be sensitive to light, red, or swollen for up 12 hours after the incident.|
For more information, click on a related personal protective topic below:
Head Protection for Agricultural Producers
Click on one of the organization links below to purchase eye protection:
Harvesting health. (2010) National farm Medicine Center. Retrieved from http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy/mcrf-centers-nfmc-resources-hh-eyeprotection1-10.1.pdf.
Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2012) Head, eye, and foot protection for farm workers. Penn State Extension. Retrieved from http://www.agsafety.psu.edu/factsheets/E39.pdf.