Eye injuries at work are surprisingly common – and expensive

The personal and economic toll of eye injuries at work is alarming. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20,000 eye injuries occur in the workplace each year. Injuries on the job often require one or more missed work days for recovery. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that workplace eye injuries cost an estimated $300 million a year in lost productivity, medical treatment and worker compensation. 

These injuries range from simple eye strain to severe trauma that can cause permanent damage, vision loss and blindness. 

The most important thing you can do to protect your vision at work is to always wear appropriate protective eyewear. This can prevent more than 90% of serious eye injuries.

“As Ben Franklin once said, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,'” said ophthalmologist Anne Sumers, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “It takes very little effort to protect yourself from on-the-job hazards that can cause blinding eye injuries. We strongly advise workers and their employers not to let their guard down when it comes to eye protection.”

Top causes of workplace eye injuries

Use machine guarding, work screens or other engineering controls to protect your eyes from hazards such as:

  • Flying shards of metal or glass;
  • Tools that slip or malfunction;
  • Particles such as wood splinters, metal shavings or crystalline silica;
  • Spattered chemicals;
  • Any combination of these or other hazards.
Choose the best protective eyewear for your profession

Shield your eyes in areas where there is the slightest chance of eye injury. Anyone passing through those areas should also wear protection. This is particularly true for welders, who face a high risk of on-the-job eye injury.

The eyewear you need depends on the hazards you face. Wear:

  • Safety glasses with side protection (side shields) if you work around particles, flying objects or dust;
  • Goggles if you handle chemicals;
  • Specially designed safety glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets if you work near hazardous radiation, such as welding, lasers or fiber optics.


Originally posted January 21, 2021 by The American Academy of Ophthalmology. Written by S. Dang & Dr. A Sumers 

preventing workplace eye injuries