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Goggles vs. Glasses: The Growing Trend in Workplace Eye Protection

A worker wears safety goggles and a hard hat as he uses a machine.

Eye protection is critical to prevent serious work injuries.

In hazardous workplaces, employees need to be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent serious on-the-job injuries. One of the most important types of PPE in many work environments is eye protection.

As Occupational Health & Safety reported, eye protection poses significant challenges to both employers and manufacturers. Safety glasses and goggles must strike a balance between safety, comfort, visibility, and even style, although, of course, safety is the top priority.

Industry engineers have developed numerous innovative solutions to these challenges. Ultimately, however, it is the employer's job to select the right safety glasses or goggles for their workers.

Considerations when choosing safety glasses and goggles

Every workplace is different, and different jobs require different degrees of eye protection. Some key considerations when it comes to eye protection include:

  • The types of anticipated hazards. Some workers need to protect their eyes primarily from flying solid objects or liquid splashes. Others are exposed to dangerous dust, fumes, or gases. The latter hazards require a tight, sealed fit.
  • Visibility and ability to do the job. A core tradeoff of eye protection is that most types of safety eyewear make it at least slightly more difficult for the worker to see. In some situations, this can trade one safety hazard for another: the worker may be more protected from eye injuries, but they are also less able to see tripping hazards and other dangers in the workplace. Poor visibility can also negatively impact a worker's ability to do their job.
  • Heat and humidity. In workplaces that get hot, wearing safety goggles can become unbearable, and condensation can compromise visibility. Vented goggles with airflow can often provide better comfort in these situations than fully sealed eye protection.
  • Comfort and wearability. Especially if safety goggles need to be worn for an extended period of time, comfort is critical. As a practical matter, the more comfortable the PPE, the more likely workers are to actually use it correctly and consistently. Lack of comfort can also make workers more prone to mistakes or rushing, increasing the risk of injury.

In addition to these job-specific considerations, there are also worker-specific considerations. Head sizes and shapes vary between workers, as do comfort levels and even stylistic preferences. Goggles need to be provided to fit a wide range of facial features: wide and narrow faces, high and low cheekbones, and so on.

Types of work-related eye injuries

Eye injuries in the workplace can take various forms, depending on the nature of the job and the associated hazards. Common types of work-related eye injuries:

  • Foreign object injuries: These occur when particles like dust, wood chips, metal fragments, or other small debris enter the eye. Workers in construction, manufacturing, and woodworking are at a higher risk of foreign object injuries.
  • Chemical burns: Exposure to hazardous chemicals or irritants can lead to chemical burns of the eye. Chemicals can be in the form of liquids, gases, or powders. Workers in laboratories, industrial settings, and janitorial services should take special precautions.
  • UV radiation: Workers who spend extended hours outdoors, such as construction workers, may be exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Prolonged exposure can lead to eye damage, including cataracts and photokeratitis (snow blindness).
  • Heat and radiation injuries: Welders, furnace operators, and those working with lasers or other high-intensity light sources are susceptible to heat and radiation-related eye injuries.
  • Blunt force trauma: Impact injuries from tools, machinery, or flying objects can result in blunt force trauma to the eye. Workers in industries like automotive repair, carpentry, and construction are at risk.

What to do if you sustain an eye injury on the job

Eye protection at work is critical because eye injuries can have dramatic long-term effects on workers' health and ability to do their jobs. An eye injury can cause permanent vision loss, affecting your earning capacity and overall quality of life.

The New York workers' compensation system provides several benefits for workers who sustain eye injuries on the job.

First, workers' compensation will pay for the full cost of medical treatment for your eye injury. That includes appointments with an optometrist or ophthalmologist, eye surgery, glasses, contact lenses, medication, and any other reasonable and necessary treatment.

Second, if you have permanent vision loss, you are eligible for schedule loss of use (SLU) benefits based on your percentage of loss, even if you didn't miss a single day of work.

However, navigating the workers' compensation process is not easy, and insurance companies routinely dispute or downplay claims for eye injuries. That's why you need an experienced legal advocate in your corner.

If you have sustained an eye injury at work in New York, contact the experienced workers' compensation lawyers at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP today. The consultation is free, and there's no obligation to hire us, just answers about your rights.

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