Why are men more at risk of eye injuries?
The Australian Institute of Health and Safety reported in 2016 that men aged 45-54 are more prone to needing treatment for the removal of foreign bodies than any other demographic.
The key reason driving such high workplace eye injuries in men is their volume within high-risk occupations.
One-third of Australia’s workforce are tradespeople, an industry that has been, and still is, largely made up of males. Naturally, this means more men are subject to workplace eye injuries as a result of being around, and working with, machinery, hazardous materials and construction tools.
Common eye injuries in the workplace
Foreign body entering the eye
This occurs on a varying scale when small materials such as metal, sand, dirt and grit or plant matter enter the eye. At worst, large materials can enter the eye travelling fast and will require emergency attention.
Scratches, punctures or trauma to the eye
Even if a foreign body is flushed from the eye it can leave damage to the surface by scratching the cornea (outer layer of the eye), puncturing the eye, or the impact can cause trauma.
Chemical burns can be extremely dangerous; they occur when harmful liquid makes contact with the eye. This can happen when a chemical splashes into the eye or when it is transferred from the hand through eye-rubbing.
Flash burn occurs when the eye is exposed to bright ultraviolet light, most commonly sourced from welding. A flash burn is like sunburn and can result in soreness starting a few hours after the incident, with symptoms including bloodshot eyes, blurred vision and sensitivity.
Eye health tips for tradies
Prevention is the key with eye health and the goal should be to avoid any eye injuries completely, no matter how minor, but accidents do still occur and being prepared will ensure damage is mitigated.
Appropriate safety glasses significantly reduce the likelihood of all types of eye injuries. Data from Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index found that 21 per cent of Australians had acquired an eye injury from a DIY project at home but only 12 per cent always wear eye protection.
Tradies should ensure they have a comfortable pair of safety glasses that meet Australian Standards. The Better Health Channel has a handy guide on what glasses are right for the job.
When it comes to loose particles in the eye, immediately flush with water. If chemicals get into the eyes flush for at least 15 minutes. Ensure you wash your hands to avoid further contamination and hold the eye open to clear.
Be very careful with scratches, eye trauma or embedded objects as disturbing the injury by eye-rubbing can lead to more damage. Cover the eye to ensure no further objects can enter and seek urgent medical attention.
Seek medical attention
Call triple zero immediately in an emergency situation, objects lodged in the eye or chemical burns can cause vision loss without treatment.
If you experience a non-urgent eye injury you should see an optometrist as soon as possible and regular checks every two to three years are essential to maintain healthy eyes. Use the Good vision for life search tool to find your nearest optometrist and schedule an appointment.