How to receive workers’ comp after an occupational eye injury
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that at least 2,000 workers sustain eye injuries while working every day in the U.S.—or about 800,000 eye injuries every year.
About 1/3 of these injuries are serious cases that require emergency treatment in a hospital. At least 100 eye injuries per day are so serious that the employee must take off work.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has laid out safety standards to protect workers, but unfortunately, not all workplaces follow the set regulations. Even if the worker is cautious, if the work environment is unsafe, they might still end up with a work-related injury.
What causes work accidents and eye injuries?
Workers in construction sites, factories, labs and chemical plants are at a higher risk of eye injury. In these workplaces, there are flying or falling objects that can get into your eye and scrape or penetrate it. In the case of labs and chemical plants, industrial chemicals can burn an employee’s eyes.
The objects that get into your eye can be small or large. Tiny particles aren’t any safer than larger particles since they can still cause blunt-force trauma. Some of the objects that are most commonly responsible for occupational eye injuries include:
- Wood chips
- Cement chips
- Metal pieces
- Cleaning products
What types of eye injuries are common in the workplace?
According to the Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, up to 20 percent of work-related eye injuries result in temporary or permanent blindness. All other injuries are less serious cases, but can still see employees off work for a few days.
- Strikes or scrapes. Striking and scraping are the most common forms of eye injuries. The particles are usually ejected by tools, blown by the wind or fall from high places. Large objects, such as tools or materials, may also hit the face or the eye, or the victim might run into them. These large objects can cause blunt-force trauma that may lead to temporary or permanent blindness.
- Penetration. When sharp objects such as nails, slivers, wood chips, metal chips, staples, and other objects go through the eyeball, they often cause permanent loss of vision.
- Burns. Chemical burns may not cause immediate damage to the eye. Instead, they damage the tissues of the eye slowly until you lose your vision. Thermal burns are also common, especially among welders.
- Disease. Eye disease affects workers when the mucous membranes of the eye come in contact with droplets from sneezing and coughing or from blood splashes. The disease may also occur if the victim touches their eye with a contaminated finger. When the eye is infected, the eye reddens and might become sore.
- Strain. The blue light from a computer can gradually weaken your eye muscles if you use the computer every day. This can lead to premature or partial blindness.
If you must perform a detailed task, such as surgery, and you don’t have magnification, you may end up with early blindness. Bright lights from floodlights (for guards) and from the soldering gun in welding shops can also weaken the muscles of the eyes over time.
Eye strain might also result from prolonged exposure to UV rays when working with lasers, under natural sunlight and with fluorescent UV lamps.
- Trauma. Workers can suffer from blindness if they experience blunt-force trauma to the head that causes damage to the brain, especially the ocular nerve.
- Allergic conjunctivitis. Commonly known as “pink eye,” this condition occurs when workers are exposed to spices and other substances that trigger allergic reactions. Out of the workplace, allergic conjunctivitis occurs seasonally due to pollen, bacteria or viruses.
Eye safety at work: what to do?
According to OSHA, all employers must ensure the safety of their employees. OSHA estimates that the cost of workplace eye injuries is about $300 million every year. This amount includes money spent on injured workers’ medical bills and lost production time.
The best way to protect your eyes at the workplace is to wear effective eye protection. OSHA regulations require certain employers to provide eye protection and personal protective equipment (PPE). Eye protection should be effective at protecting the worker from the specific hazards they face.
Besides eye protection, workers must be given appropriate education and training on how to prevent eye injuries by properly using safety equipment. Lastly, eye protection devices need to be properly maintained by employers so that they continue to provide protection.
Occupational eye injury compensation
After an eye injury at work, you should first seek medical attention and notify your employer within 30 days of the injury in North Carolina. If you fail to notify them by this deadline, then they may deny your claim and you will forfeit your workers’ compensation benefits.
After notifying your employer, contact our work injury attorneys at the Wilder Pantazis Law Group for experienced legal help and advice on what to do next. The amount you may be owed depends on many factors such as the type and severity of your injury.
Ultimately, the amount you deserve will depend on many factors such as:
- Your weekly wage before the injury
- The duties you undertake at the workplace
- Any work restrictions due to the injury
- Any other injuries you may have sustained
- Whether you are compensated by workers’ compensation insurance or private health insurance
- Your projected costs of future medical expenses
- The level of vision impairment
Talk to an injury attorney to get help navigating the complex and confusing legal issues surrounding workplace eye injuries. Without help, the insurance company might deny your claim on the grounds that you did properly wear eye protection.