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Nonfatal Occupational Injuries Involving the Eyes, 2004
Originally Posted: August 30, 2006
In 2004, there were 36,680 nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses involving the eye that resulted in days away from work. The typical eye injury resulted from the eye being rubbed or abraded by foreign matter, such as metal chips, dirt particles, and splinters, or by these types of items striking the eye. These injury events resulted commonly in surface wounds, such as abrasions, scratches, and embedded foreign bodies (splinters and chips).
Potential eye hazards are found in nearly every industry. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require that employers provide workers with suitable eye protection. To be effective in preventing injury, the eyewear must be of the appropriate type for the hazard encountered, and it must be properly fitted.
This article examines data from the BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) and profiles work-related injuries involving the eye or eyes. Approximately 4.3 million injuries and illnesses were reported in private industry workplaces during 2004, a rate of 4.8 per 100 equivalent full-time workers. Among the 1.3 million injuries involving at least one day away from work, more than 80,000 were head injuries classified into the following areas: cranial region, including skull; ears; face; multiple head locations; and other or unspecified areas of the head. (See table 1.)
Two-thirds of all head injuries occurred to the face. Injuries to the face are further classified into the following areas: face, unspecified; forehead; eyes; nose or nasal cavity; cheeks; jaw or chin; mouth; multiple face locations; and face, other. About the same number of eye injury cases were reported in 2004 as in the previous year. There were 36,680 eye injuries in 2004, accounting for 69 percent of face injuries and nearly 45 percent of all head injuries requiring days away from work. (See table 2.)
Demographics and major industry division
While men were nearly twice as likely as women to experience an occupational injury or illness requiring days away from work in 2004, men made up an even greater proportion (80 percent) of the eye injury cases. The majority of the eye injury cases occurred among workers aged 25 to 34 years and 35 to 44 years. These two age groups combined accounted for nearly 55 percent of all eye injuries. (See table 3.)
Nearly 61 percent of all eye injury cases occurred in manufacturing, construction, or trade (wholesale and retail). Educational and health services; transportation and public utilities; and professional business services accounted for another 24 percent. The remaining six industry divisions accounted for the remaining 15 percent. (See table 4.)
Days away from work
Compared with injuries to other parts of the body, a relatively large proportion of eye injuries required only one day away from work. The median number of days away from work for eye injury cases was 2 days, 5 days fewer than the median for all cases. (See table 5.)
Among specific occupations, nine had at least 1,000 eye injuries in 2004. These occupations accounted for 37 percent (13,680 eye injuries) of all occupational eye injury cases in private industry. With 2,240 cases, welders, cutters, solderers and brazers incurred the most eye injuries, followed by construction laborers. (See table 6.)
Turning to broader occupational groups, four categories--production; installation, maintenance and repair; construction and extractive; and service occupations--accounted for nearly three-fourths of eye injuries among private industry workers. (See table 7.) Workers in these occupational groups tend to experience injuries from flying objects, chemicals, harmful radiation, or a combination of these or other hazards.
Characteristics of the injuries
There were 36,680 eye accidents reported in private industry in 2004. The most prevalent (nearly 36 percent) type of event involved the eye or eyes being rubbed or abraded by foreign matter. Somewhat surprisingly, falls, fires and explosions; and assaults and violent acts were not among the most prevalent events or exposures involving eye injuries and illnesses. (See table 8.)
The principal source of head and eye injuries was the category scrap, waste, and debris. With 18,950 eye injuries, this category accounted for close to 52 percent of all such nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. In addition, among the seven specific sources accounting for 1,000 or more eye injuries, six were classified as scrap, waste, and debris. (See table 9.)
More than a third of the eye injuries occurred among nine occupations--each with more than 1,000 eye injuries--which are commonly exposed to dirt, scrap, and flying objects. Examples include laborers, welders, and assemblers, all of whom face a higher risk of encountering the leading sources of eye injuries.
Nearly 89 percent of the 36,680 nonfatal eye injury cases were related to traumatic injuries and disorders. A traumatic injury is the result of a single incident, event or exposure. The most common injuries to the eye (14,070 cases) were surface wounds--more specifically, injuries involving foreign bodies such as splinters or chips. Abrasions and scratches were the second leading cause of eye injuries.
The five natures of injuries with the most cases accounted for 75 percent of eye injuries. (See table 10.) Welder's flash, a common injury that often leads to loss of vision, accounted for nearly half of all systemic diseases and disorders (those that occur over time). Welder’s flash accounts for another 5 percent of all natures with 1,870 injuries.
BLS data on occupational injuries and illnesses show that in 2004, the number of eye injury cases was about unchanged from 2003. Eye injuries accounted for 45 percent of all head injuries involving days away from work and 69 percent of all face injuries involving days away from work. The data also indicate that men aged 25 to 44 were more likely to experience an eye injury than were women in the same age group. Workers in the manufacturing, construction, and trade industries; and those in production; installation, maintenance and repair; construction and extractive; and service occupations were most at risk of incurring an eye injury.
For additional information about eye safety at work and eye injury prevention, see the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) "Eye Safety" webpage at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye/; see also the National Institutes of Health "Healthy Vision 2010" webpage at http://www.healthyvision2010.org/.