Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Workplace Eye Diseases
There are a number of eye diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by the workplace environment. Irritation and inflammation of the eye (conjunctivitis) is the most common workplace eye conditions. In office work, complaints can be caused by heat, humidity and demanding tasks. Using a computer for extended periods of time is also associated pain and altered vision. In manufacturing facilities exposure to vapors from solvents, gases, and particulates as well as outdoor work in bright locations can cause irritation.
Workplace environments can cause more serious eye diseases. Color vision can be affected by exposure to solvents, related to concentration and duration of exposure. Long-term exposure to styrene and carbon disulfide can have effects at lower levels and short-term exposure to styrene can also have color effects below occupational exposure limits. Exposure to n-hexane and perchloroethylene can also negatively impact color vision.
Factors causing cataracts include pollution, age, gender, and smoking in the general population. However, increased incidents of cataracts are also found in welders from exposure to UV radiation, glass blowers exposed to infrared energy, and those who work with molten metals and intense heat. Workers exposed to indoor fuels and solvents also have a greater incidence of cataracts.
Environmental factors such as sunlight, cigarette smoke, and air pollution can affect the retina. Greater incidents of retina damage can be traced to carbon monoxide, carbon disulfide, and exposure to exhaust particles. The retina can also be affected by intense light and longer exposures at less intense levels. Increased incidents of macular degeneration have been found in laser workers.
Employers should take steps to prevent occupational eye diseases. These may include:
- Identify processes where employers are exposed to ultraviolet, lasers, and other non-ionizing radiation and where there is continuous exposure to solvents.
- Provide and maintain general and local exhaust ventilation.
- Decrease the levels of particles and solvent vapors in the workplace below occupational exposure limits.
- Investigate employee complaints about eye problems.
- Optimize illumination and humidity.
- Provide eye protection such as safety glasses and sunglasses, and specialized eyewear for ultraviolet light and laser exposures.
- Instruct computer users to take frequent breaks from monitors.
Occupational eye diseases can be painful and in some case debilitating. Employees and employers should be aware of chemicals and environmental factors that can affect vision and ensure that all necessary controls are in place.
Be safe, be healthy, be six feet apart!
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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