California workers' comp attorneys explain how to protect your eyes while on the job
An estimated 2,000 workers suffer eye injuries in workplace accidents each day. For some, these injuries will result in temporary or permanent vision loss. How do these accidents happen? Workers can suffer eye injuries when working with or near flying bits of metal, wood, glass, tools, chemicals, or harmful radiation.
Seeking prompt medical attention and reporting any on-the-job eye injuries to your supervisor is crucial. If you're eligible, filing a workers' compensation claim can cover expenses related to medical treatment, lost wages, and other costs. However, it's possible to face resistance or denial from employers or insurance companies, leading to frustration and stress. In these cases, a workers' compensation attorney can provide legal advice, representation, and advocacy to protect your rights and interests.
At McLaughlin & Sanchez in San Diego, CA, our legal team can help you navigate the intricate workers' compensation system. We gather evidence, negotiate with the California Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC), and appeal unfavorable decisions on your behalf. By hiring an experienced workers' compensation lawyer from our firm, you can concentrate on your recovery while we handle everything else.
Protective eyewear makes a big difference
An estimated 90% of eye injuries could have been prevented – or would not have been as serious – had workers been wearing proper eye protection. This includes non-prescription and prescription safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets, and full-face respirators.
Protective eyewear can use glass, plastic, or polycarbonate lenses. While all provide adequate protection, each material has its strengths and drawbacks:
- Glass lenses are not easily scratched, can be used around harsh chemicals, and are made in a corrective prescription, but they can sometimes be heavy and uncomfortable.
- Plastic lenses are lighter, protect against welding splatter, and are less likely to fog, but they are not as scratch-resistant as glass.
- Polycarbonate lenses are lightweight, protect against welding splatter, are not as likely to fog, are stronger, and are more impact resistant than glass or plastic, but are not as scratch resistant as glass.
Prevent Blindness says employers can make a big difference by prioritizing eye safety. They suggest ten ways employers can prevent eye injuries at the workplace:
- Assess all plant operations and review injury reports to identify potential eye hazards in work areas, access routes, and equipment.
- Provide vision testing for all employees to identify uncorrected problems that could lead to workplace accidents.
- Choose protective eyewear that meets OSHA standards and is appropriate for the duties and hazards workers encounter.
- Make eye protection mandatory for all areas to ensure greater compliance and prevent more injuries.
- Arrange for protective eyewear used by workers to be fitted by an eye care professional or someone who has received training, and provide for repairs as needed.
- Establish first-aid procedures to follow in case of eye injury and provide training and eyewash stations for workers.
- Set up ongoing educational programs about the need for protective eyewear for all employees, including new employees, during their orientation.
- Support eye safety programs by having managers wear protective eyewear wherever and whenever required.
- Keep accident prevention policies current by regularly reviewing them and making necessary changes.
- Put a copy of the safety policy in full view where employees will see it.
Common workplace eye injuries
The workplace can be a source of various eye hazards that depend on the type of job and environment. For instance, construction workers may encounter injuries from blunt force trauma, sparks, and flying debris, while factory and warehouse workers can sustain injuries from machinery malfunctions, chemicals, and falling objects.
The following are common work-related eye injuries:
- Foreign objects in the eye: Dust, metal, wood, debris, and other foreign objects can cause significant damage to the eye by scratching the cornea or penetrating it, leading to infections, serious injuries, or vision loss. Workers who operate machinery or tools that produce flying debris or work in dusty environments are most susceptible to these injuries.
- Chemical burns or exposure: Industrial chemicals like acids, cleaning agents, bases, and solvents can cause chemical burns, blindness, or irritation to the eyes. Workers in chemical-handling environments should wear protective eyewear such as chemical goggles or face shields to minimize the risk of accidental exposure.
- Thermal burns: High-temperature equipment such as welding torches or furnaces can cause thermal burns leading to severe damage or vision loss. Workers who operate these machines should wear PPE that can withstand high temperatures and protect against radiation or UV light exposure.
- Penetration injuries: Penetration injuries from tools or projectiles like metal shards, nails, or screws can cause retinal detachment, blindness, or intraocular hemorrhage. Workers using tools that produce projectiles like power saws or grinders should use goggles or face shields to prevent such injuries.
- Blunt force trauma: Blunt force trauma to the eye can occur from falls, collisions, or objects hitting the face. Workers operating vehicles, working at heights, or with moving equipment are susceptible to these injuries.
- Electrical shock or radiation: Electrical shock and radiation can cause severe eye injuries, leading to vision loss, retinal damage, or cataracts. Workers exposed to ionizing radiation or electrical equipment should wear protective eyewear.
- Eye strain or fatigue: Prolonged computer use or close-up work can cause eye strain or fatigue resulting in dry eyes, blurred vision, or headaches. Workers who spend significant time on computers or close-up work should follow the 20-20-20 rule and take a break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. They can also adjust lighting, font size, and screen distance and use specialized glasses.
It's worth noting that workers' compensation is a no-fault system; even if you were at fault or made a mistake, you may still be eligible for benefits. However, you must report the injury promptly to your employer and seek medical attention to receive proper treatment and documentation. Your claim may be compromised and your benefits limited if you fail to report your injury promptly.
A workers' comp lawyer can fight for your rights
Workers who suffer an eye injury can receive workers' compensation benefits. These benefits can cover the cost of related medical treatment and a percentage of lost wages. Unfortunately, many claims for benefits are denied because an insurance company disputes the severity of the injury, argues that the injury is not work-related, or claims that the worker failed to report the injury promptly.
In some cases, insurance companies may also offer low settlement amounts or delay payment, hoping that the worker will give up or accept a lower offer. That's why it's essential to have legal representation from an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can fight for your rights and ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve under California law.
The attorneys at McLaughlin & Sanchez have decades of combined experience handling workers' compensation claims in California. We can help you navigate the claims process every step of the way and fight for the outcome your case deserves. Contact us to schedule a free consultation. We proudly serve injured workers in Southern California, including San Diego and Imperial County.