There’s a reason that the electrical business is one of the highest paid trades around: it’s hard work with more safety risks than many other trades. When you think of the dangers of working with electrical wiring, you might think about falling off a ladder or having an accident involving live wires. One of the quickest ways to injure yourself can also be the most debilitating: doing damage to your eyesight.
Types of Eye Injuries
About 20 percent of all eye injuries happen on a construction job site and well over half of those are because of not wearing proper eye protection. Even though they don’t work on the building end of construction, electricians still must pay attention to eye safety, because there are so many ways to injure your eyes while on the job.
Flying Particles: Countless small particles fly around a construction site, which make it a constant danger to every pair of eyes in the area. Sawdust, dust, sand and metal shards from spinning blades can all fly into your eyes and cause damage. These objects can travel at speeds of up to 10,000 feet per second, much faster than the human eye can blink. The most damaging objects are the smallest, smaller than the head of a pin. These minute particles can embed themselves in an eye almost immediately. Even the simplest jobs, such as cutting drywall to expose wires, can pose their own dangers.
Bright Flashes: The flash from a sudden arc can pose a different type of danger to the eyes. This sudden blinding light can do permanent damage to your eyesight if you’re not protected.
Sun Damage: It may seem less important than protecting your eyes from flying debris, but keeping UV rays from your eyes can help to prevent cataracts, keratitis, macular degeneration and other serious eye diseases.
The Right Eyewear for the Job
There’s no all-purpose professional eyewear for electricians. The right eyewear for you depends on the job you’re going to be doing. OSHA rules require that employers provide the correct protective eyewear for each worker and the job they’re doing. According to OSHA regulations, the eyewear must:
• Be appropriate for the hazard encountered
• Fit comfortably and properly
• Allow air to circulate between the lens and the wearer’s eye
Depending on the type of work you’ll be doing, you may be using one of four types of protective eyewear: safety glasses, face shields, goggles or welding helmets. Anticipate the possible danger from each job before choosing your eyewear.
Straps, frames and other parts should be sturdy and fit comfortably. Proper maintenance is crucial. Each worker should inspect their eyewear at the end of each shift. If they find broken or bent frames or scratched lenses, they should immediately turn them in to management for replacements. Safety eyewear won’t stand up to repeated abuse. It should be cared for like any other tool.
Handing out pairs of safety eyewear isn’t enough; safety eyewear education is key to reducing or eliminating eye injuries. Most workers injure their eyes while doing their regular jobs. When injured while not wearing protective eyewear, most of them say they weren’t aware that eyewear was necessary.
Make a point of specifying what types of eyewear are required for each job and repeat the instructions every day before your crew begins working on the job site. Countless times, OSHA has stressed that it’s not sufficient to simply have a safety policy – that policy must be consistently enforced.
Electrical work is a dangerous business that puts electrical contractors in danger every day. Safety eyewear must be worn correctly and consistently to protect everyone from potential eye damage and loss of sight.