The visual demands of various industrial job descriptions necessitate the need for periodic comprehensive eye examinations from an optometrist. This is particularly important for workers over the age of forty when natural age-related changes in accommodation, (focussing of the eyes for close work), begin to manifest.

Workers that spend long hours in front of computer monitors, perform intricate close work tasks such as welding, or rely on micrometers etc. will benefit from an eye examination to determine the need for prescription spectacle lenses.  An optometrist will also provide suggestions and advice on the proper eyewear and lens designs for certain task-specific jobs.

“An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” This certainly applies to safety in the workplace and in particular eye safety, where the majority of industrial accidents occur year after year. Better training and education of workers is paramount in helping to prevent eye injuries on the job.

Workplace safety should always include eye safety for welders. The proper precautions can protect welders and those around them from eye injuries. Every welder should be trained so that they know the risks and what to do to minimize those risks.

For example, you should never look at the flame on a welding machine, whether it is a robot or at the end of your welding torch. A fraction of a second is all that is needed for a welding flame to cause damage to the eye. This is often called “arch flash” and it may be several hours before you realize that you have been injured. Once it presents itself, the condition is incredibly painful. If you always wear a welding safety mask you can avoid suffering with this condition.

What to do when an eye related injury occurs

For a serious eye injury that involves trauma a call to the closest hospital emergency room is in order. The injured worker should be transported with a protective cover over the eye but excessive pressure should not be applied.

For any chemical splash the first line of action needs to be immediate and thorough flushing of the eyes in an eye bath station if available.

Optometrists can often provide timely and appropriate care for corneal foreign body injuries, eye infections, or other non-traumatic eye injuries such as corneal abrasions, welding flashes, and contact-lens related issues. Optometrists can diagnose many industrial eye-related problems and provide treatment or make necessary referrals to other healthcare providers including ophthalmologists if needed.

Submitted by: Dr William Ulakovic, Thunder Bay Optometrist on behalf of the Ontario Association of Optometrists