Our eyes provide us with our primary means of experiencing our surroundings. Commonly referred to as our windows to the world, each eye is a complex organ, comprised of 40 components and more than 100 million receptors. They also are delicate, and therefore susceptible to injury from a range of common workplace hazards such as dust, flying debris, chemicals and harmful vapors.

Protecting employees' vision is extremely important, and most employers have initiatives in place to do just that. OSHA also provides guidance for eye protection, calling for employers to equip workers with safety eyewear that offers suitable protection from workplace hazards. While corporate safety initiatives and national standards together have reduced occupational eye injuries through the years, accidents still happen.

See Also: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Safety Standards

In fact, an estimated 2,000 occupational eye injuries occur each day in the United States, according to Prevent Blindness America. The financial cost of these injuries exceeds $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses and workers' compensation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Furthermore, the cost to an individual who loses his or her vision – and whose means of experiencing life and making a living are diminished – is immeasurable.   In fact, an estimated 2,000 occupational eye injuries occur each day in the United States, according to Prevent Blindness America. The financial cost of these injuries exceeds $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses and workers' compensation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Furthermore, the cost to an individual who loses his or her vision – and whose means of experiencing life and making a living are diminished – is immeasurable.

When an injury occurs, immediate and proper treatment can make a significant difference in the outcome. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z358.1-2009 calls for a primary eyewash station to be available wherever injurious corrosive materials (harmful chemicals) are present. The standard elaborates that eyewash stations should be located no further than a 10-second, unobstructed walk from the hazard and should provide 15 minutes of continuous irrigation to both eyes. Every second counts, and if treatment is delayed, the effects can range from temporary to permanent blindness.

Employers who properly install eyewash delivery systems wherever they are needed greatly can reduce the severity and related costs of eye injuries. Yet, these important safety devices often are missing from key locations.

Forklift Battery Charging Stations

Small and mid-sized industrial vehicles ranging from small pallet trucks to high-lift trucks are used in a wide variety of industries and applications. Especially prevalent in warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing plants, powered industrial trucks are found wherever materials of large size or high volume must be moved. The popularity of battery-powered vehicles is on the rise, as models offer increasingly longer run times, shorter recharging times and reduced emissions.

Vehicles such as these run on either lead-acid or nickel-iron batteries, and both types can pose health and safety hazards. First, the gases emitted during charging can be highly volatile. These batteries release oxygen and hydrogen gases when charging and, in the case of overcharging, the concentrations of these gases can become highly explosive. Second, corrosive chemicals exist within the batteries, such as sulfuric acid, which can spill or leak.

Forklift operators, who are responsible for charging vehicles at battery-charging stations, often are not properly protected from these hazards. Furthermore, eyewash stations commonly are missing from battery-charging stations. Exposure to a spill, leak or explosion could result in permanent vision loss to the employee and significant expense to the company.  If battery-charging stations are present at your site, be sure to provide workers with eye and face protection appropriate to the identified chemical hazards. Also, be sure that a primary eyewash station is located within an unobstructed, 10-second walk of the hazards there. By selecting self-contained portable units, eyewashes easily can be moved any time the battery-charging station changes location to ensure uninterrupted availability.