Eye injuries: prevention
Eye injuries are common, with thousands occurring each year in Australia. While some workplaces are particular risky, e.g. construction and manufacturing industries, many serious eye injuries occur in the home. Most eye injuries are preventable. Here are some suggestions to protect your eyes from injury.
- Wear protective eyewear whenever there is the slightest chance of eye injury.
- Always read the label carefully before using any medicine in your eyes.
- Read the instructions carefully before working with chemicals of any type as they may cause injury if coming in contact with your eyes. Use gloves if advised and wash your hands thoroughly after using any chemicals.
In the workplace
- Ensure that you wear the appropriate safety eyewear recommended for your job. The safety eyewear should comply with the Australian standards.
- Ensure that you understand how to properly wear the eye protection provided, as many eye injuries are sustained despite appropriate protective equipment being worn.
In the house
- Store poisonous or toxic substances in a locked cupboard, or out of reach of children.
- Take care when using household cleaners and chemicals, and make sure that you point spray nozzles away from you.
- Discourage children from throwing, twirling or flicking objects when playing.
In the backyard
- Wear protective goggles when pruning or using a rotary lawnmower or edge trimmer.
- Keep children away when there is a danger that an object may get thrown up into their eyes, such as when you are mowing the lawn.
- Wear protective eyewear when using power tools, hammering metal on metal, welding, or carrying out any other activity in a home workshop where there is potential for an eye injury to occur.
- Don’t stand or walk close to where anyone is drilling or grinding.
- Be aware that fireworks pose a hazard to the eyes, particularly in the hands of children.
Playing sport and enjoying the outdoors
- Wear safety eyewear appropriate for your sport.
- The highest risk sports are those involving small, high velocity projectiles – not only balls and pucks, but air rifles and playing paintball can pose a danger.
- Protect your eyes from the sun, including when you are in the snow.
- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause sunburn of the cornea in the short term and in the long term can cause more serious damage to the eye and its surrounding structures e.g. cataracts, cancer of the conjunctiva (membrane covering the white part of the eye) and skin cancer of the eyelids.
- It is important to choose close-fitting, wrap-around type sunglasses and to check that they comply with Australian Standards and have an eye protection factor (EPF) of 10.
- Wearing a broad-brimmed hat will also reduce the amount of UV radiation that reaches the eyes.
- Be aware that UV radiation is more intense at high altitudes compared to sea level. Reflection from snow magnifies your exposure to UV radiation, so it is important to wear protective gear including sunglasses.
Last Reviewed: 29/11/2012
Your Doctor. Dr Michael Jones, Medical Editor.
1.Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Eye-related injuries in Australia. 2009. [Internet] Cat no INJCAT 123. Canberra: AIHW. (Accessed Dec 2012).
2.Sports Medicine Australia. Eye injuries (Fact sheet).2010. [Internet]. http://sma.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/719-SMA-InjuryBrochure-Eye-Injuries_web.pdf (Accessed Dec 2012).
3.Cancer Council NSW. Protecting your eyes from the sun. [Fact sheet]. http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/12Protecting-your-eyes-from-the-sun.pdf .
4.SunSmart. Health effects of UV radiation. [Website]. Last updated May 2012. http://www.sunsmart.com.au/ultraviolet_radiation/the_health_risks/ (Accessed Dec 2012).
5.Australian Safety and Compensation Council. Work-related Eye Injuries in Australia. 2008. [Internet]. http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/201/WorkRealtedEyeInjuriesAustralia_2008_PDF.pdf (Accessed Dec 2012).
6. Mayo Clinic. Eye injury: Tips to protect vision. [Website] March 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eye-injury/MY01614 (Accessed Dec 2012)