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Nonfatal Occupational Injuries Involving the Eyes, 2002
Originally Posted: June 30, 2004
In 2002, there were 42,286 occupational injuries or illnesses involving the eye that resulted in days away from work. The typical eye injuries occurred by rubbed or abraded foreign matter, such as metal chips, dirt particles, and splinters, or by striking the eye; surface wounds, such as abrasions, scratches, and foreign bodies (splinters and chips) were among the most common types of injuries to the eyes.
Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require that employers provide workers with suitable eye protection. To be effective in preventing injury, the eyewear must be of the appropriate type for the hazard encountered, and it must be properly fitted.
This report examines data from the BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) and profiles work-related injuries involving the eye or eyes. A total of about 4.7 million injuries and illnesses were reported in private industry workplaces during 2002, a rate of 5.3 per 100 equivalent full-time workers. Among the 1.4 million injuries involving at least one day away from work, more than 90,000 were head injuries classified into the following areas: cranial region including skull; ears; face; multiple head locations; head, unspecified; and head, other. (See table 1.) Two-thirds of all head injuries occurred to the face. Injuries to the face are further classified into the following areas: face, unspecified; forehead; eyes; nose or nasal cavity; cheeks; jaw or chin; mouth; multiple face locations; and face, other. There were 42,286 eye injuries in 2002, accounting for 70 percent of face injuries and nearly 47 percent of all head injuries requiring days away from work. (See table 2.)
Demographics and major industry division
Although men were nearly twice as likely as women to experience an occupational injury or illness requiring days away from work in 2002, men made up an even greater proportion of the eye injury cases: 81 percent. The majority of the eye injury cases occurred among workers aged 25 to 34 years and 35 to 44 years. These two age groups combined accounted for nearly 62 percent of all eye injuries. (See table 3.)
Nearly 52 percent of all eye injury cases occurred in manufacturing or trade (wholesale and retail). Another 20 percent occurred in the services industry, and 15 percent occurred in construction. In the remaining four industry divisions, a little more than 8 percent occurred in transportation and public utilities, and less than 4 percent occurred in each of the other three industries. (See table 4.)
Days away from work
Compared with injuries to other parts of the body, a relatively large proportion of eye injuries required only one day away from work. The median for eye injury cases resulting in days away from work was 2 days, 5 days less than the median for all cases. (See table 5.)
Among specific occupations, eight had at least 1,000 eye injuries in 2002. These occupations accounted for 34 percent (14,397 eye injuries) of all occupational eye injury cases in private industry. With 3,447 cases, nonconstruction laborers incurred the most eye injuries, followed by welders and cutters and truck drivers. (See table 6.) Turning to broader occupational groups, two categories--operators, fabricators, and laborers; and precision production, craft, and repair occupations--accounted for nearly three-fourths of eye injuries among private industry workers. (See table 7.) Workers in these occupational groups tend to experience injuries from flying objects, chemicals, harmful radiation, or a combination of these or other hazards.
Characteristics of the injuries
There were 42,286 eye accidents reported in private industry in 2002, and the most prevalent (38 percent) type of event involved the eye or eyes being rubbed or abraded by foreign matter. Overall, the top five events and exposures combined for a total of 30,182 injuries, or 71 percent of the total. Somewhat surprisingly, falls, fires and explosions, and assaults and violent acts were not among the most prevalent events or exposures involving eye injuries and illnesses. (See table 8.)
The principal source of head and eye injuries was the category scrap, waste, and debris. With 20,970 eye injuries, this category accounted for close to 50 percent of all such nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. In addition, among the seven specific sources accounting for 1,000 or more eye injuries, six were classified as scrap, waste, and debris. (See table 9.)
The number of eye injuries can be related to the occupations in which they occur. A large number of the injuries to the eyes occurred in the eight occupations that had 1,000 or more injuries, and dirt, scrap and flying objects are a greater risk in these occupations. Examples include nonconstruction laborers, welders, and assemblers, all of which face a higher risk of encountering the leading sources of eye injuries.
Nearly 87 percent of the 42,286 nonfatal eye injury cases were related to traumatic injuries and disorders. A traumatic injury is the result of a single incident, event, or exposure. The most common injuries to the eye were surface wounds--more specifically, injuries involving foreign bodies such as splinters or chips--with 15,558 cases. Abrasions and chemical burns were second. The five natures of injuries with the most cases accounted for 78 percent of eye injuries. (See table 10.)
BLS data on occupational injuries and illnesses show that, in 2002, eye injuries accounted for 47 percent of all head injuries involving days away from work and 70 percent of all face injuries involving days away from work. The data also indicate that men aged 25 to 44 were more likely to experience an eye injury than were women in the same age group. Workers in the manufacturing and trade industries and those in the occupational group operators, fabricators, and laborers and in precision, production, craft, and repair occupations were most at risk of incurring an eye injury.