Common Workplace Eye Injuries and How to Respond

When it comes to workplace safety, protecting an employee’s vision often takes a backseat. But how can an employee who relies on their sense of sight continue working? In most cases, they can’t.

Eye injuries at work are more common than most people know. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20,000 eye injuries happen in the workplace annually, and most of these incidents require one or more days off work to recover from. The injuries range from simple eye strain to severe blunt force trauma that can impair vision. Furthermore, the medical expenses, lost productivity, and potential legal liabilities from an eye injury can cause financial burdens to both the employer and the employee.

March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month and Save Your Vision Month. Awareness of the different types of eye injuries can help employers and employees determine what measures to take to preserve eye health.


Most Common Eye Injuries in the Workplace

working woman in pain

The eyes are incredibly delicate organs. Avoid the following injuries or learn what to do in case they happen to you, an employee, or a co-worker:


1. Foreign Object Entry

Foreign objects such as dust, debris, metal shards, broken glass, or wood chips can enter the eye, causing irritation, abrasions, or more severe injuries. These accidents are widespread in industries involving construction and manufacturing.

  • Symptoms: Pain, redness, tearing, and sensation of something in the eye.
  • Potential consequences: A foreign object in the eye can lead to infections, corneal ulcers, or permanent damage without prompt removal or medical attention.

What to do if something enters the eye:

  • Do not rub the eye; it can exacerbate pain and cause further damage.
  • Try to flush out the object by rinsing the eye with either saline solution or clean water.
  • If a foreign object penetrates the eye, call 911 or seek immediate medical care from an eye doctor in Sun City, Arizona.


2. Chemical Exposure

Contact with hazardous chemicals or substances can cause chemical burns or corrosive damage to the eyes. Such accidents typically occur in workplaces involving chemicals, including manufacturing plants, laboratories, or cleaning industries.

  • Symptoms: Severe pain, redness, swelling, blurred vision, and eye tissue damage.
  • Potential consequences: Chemical burns that can cause permanent vision loss, scarring of the cornea, or blindness if not treated immediately and appropriately.

What to do if chemical splashes in the eye: 

  • Resist the urge to touch the eye, as it can cause further damage.
  • Flush the affected eye with water for at least 20 minutes. Use a clean source of water or an eyewash station.
  • If contact lenses are present and they don’t come out after flushing, remove them gently.
  • Seek emergency medical treatment without delay, and bring the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or information about the chemical involved for reference.


3. Blunt Force Trauma

Impact from objects or blunt force trauma to the eye area can cause injuries such as contusions, fractures, or traumatic iritis. It is most common in construction sites, manufacturing facilities, or during physical activities involving tools, machinery, or heavy objects.

  • Symptoms: Pain, swelling, bruising, decreased vision, and bleeding from the eye.
  • Potential consequences: Blunt force trauma can result in severe eye injuries, including retinal detachment, hyphema (internal eye bleeding), or damage to the optic nerve, which can result in partial or total vision loss.

What to do in case of a blunt eye injury: 

  • Wrap some ice cubes in a towel or cloth, making sure it’s clean to prevent infections. Cold compresses can help alleviate swelling and pain. Do not apply pressure to the eye; it can worsen pain and bleeding.
  • Dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for a comprehensive evaluation and treatment.


4. UV Radiation Damage

Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from the sun or artificial sources like welding arcs, can age and damage all structures of the eye. Exposure is common in outdoor occupations such as construction, agriculture, landscaping, and industries involving metalwork or UV-emitting equipment.

  • Symptoms: Photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea), conjunctivitis (pink eye), cataracts, or pterygium (abnormal growth on the eye’s surface).
  • Potential consequences: Chronic UV exposure can accelerate the development of age-related eye conditions and increase the risk of cataract formation, macular degeneration, and other vision problems.

How to protect the eyes from UV damage:

  • Move indoors or to a shaded area to avoid prolonged exposure to UV radiation.
  • Wear protective eyewear, such as sunglasses with UV protection, to shield against harmful rays.
  • If experiencing symptoms of ultraviolet damage to the eye, consult an eye care specialist for proper evaluation and treatment.


Next Steps to Take Post-First Aid and Medical Help for Eye Injuries

man consulting an eye doctor

After following the above first-aid tips and seeking medical assistance, proceed with:

  • Follow-up care: After the initial first aid and medical assessment, the employee must follow the healthcare provider’s instructions on proper prescription medication intake and eye drop use, as well as when to come back for follow-up checkups.
  • Prevention: Once the situation has been handled, employers should focus on preventing eye injuries moving forward. Identify and address workplace hazards, provide adequate training on safety protocols, and ensure the availability and proper use of personal protective equipment. Taking precautions could prevent as much as 90 percent of eye injuries and protect thousands of workers each year.
  • Documentation and reporting: Employers should document all workplace eye injuries, including details of the accident, actions taken, and any medical treatment provided. Reporting such incidents helps identify trends, implement corrective measures, and improve overall safety protocols.


Protective eyewear must comply with OSHA guidelines for eye and face protection. OSHA’s official website also provides details on the types of filter lenses required for specific cutting and welding operations and how welding fumes affect the eyes.

Our Arizona Retinal Specialists hope the above information reminds you to prioritize eye safety at work. If you would like to know whether you can schedule an eye appointment with one of our ophthalmologists today, contact us at 623-474-3937.

Share this information on your social media accounts to spread the word about eye injuries and promote workplace safety.

NOTICE TO USERS is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on