Protecting your Eyes and Ears at Work

When working on a project, it’s important that both the staff and employer are aware of health and safety issues and how to mitigate or minimize site risks and hazards.

Not only will adequate health and safety measures prevent you and your colleagues from being injured in a potentially permanent manner, they will also protect your employer from potentially damaging legal ramifications, saving time and money.

Out of the numerous organ systems in the human body, the sensory organs are some of the most fragile and prone to damage if not protected adequately.

Damage to the eyes and ears can result in temporary or permanent loss of function in those organs, including blindness and deafness, conditions which seriously impair quality of life and capacity for work.

On a construction site, being hearing or sight impaired is a potentially dangerous condition to have, and many employers would be reluctant to take on staff with these handicaps due to the increased health and safety risks involved.

Sensory organs are amongst the slowest-healing areas of the body, and even minor damage can result in permanent impairment, even if treated immediately.

How hazards can injure your eyes

On a construction site, there are a great many tasks and processes which, if carried out unsafely, could result in eye injury or irritation.

When working in dark conditions, spotlights may be employed to illuminate the work area and could dazzle or damage the retina if looked at directly.

Dust hazards from cutting and grinding tasks can irritate the sensitive membranes around the eyes, desiccating (drying them out) and abrading the surface. Any task involving power tools is likely to rapidly rotating blades or bits which could break off and strike the eyes, causing more serious damage.

Using chainsaws or other cutting tools can result in large chips of material flying off and causing similar types of damage.

Preventing eye injury on site

When working on-site, the first measure that can be taken to reduce sight-based hazards is an accurate and thorough risk assessment. You and your employer are expected to constantly assess on-site risks and update your risk assessment document.

Details which should be added to the assessment include who is at risk (you, passers-by, people who work nearby), the degree of risk involved and how the risk could be mitigated.

This document then serves as a constant reminder of measures which should be taken to minimize injury risk, as well as protecting your employer by demonstrating that they have taken on-site risks into account.

Methods for minimizing the risk of eye injury include, at minimum, eye protection such as goggles or visors. This is particularly important for tasks such as welding, where extremely serious eye injury can result from seconds of exposure.

Methods for reducing particle hazards (such as ventilation/extraction systems and keeping the cut material wet) can be effective for reducing eye injury from particles, whilst blade guards and other safety features on power tools can prevent chips from being thrown and blade fragments from being directed towards the user’s face should a tool fail.

How hazards can injure your ears

Similar to an eye injury, hearing damage can easily become permanent, even when treated immediately. Hearing hazards should be easy to spot; any tool or process which produces noises over 120 decibels could cause injury, with risk increasing with intensity and duration of exposure.

Similarly to an eye injury, direct damage to the ears from fragments etc. can also cause ear injuries.

Preventing ear injury on site

Similarly to eye damage, hearing damage can be mitigated by first carrying out a thorough risk assessment of any hazards on the site and keeping it up-to-date at all times.

Hearing hazards can be minimized by wearing appropriate ear protection when carrying out or working near processes involving high levels of noise, and reducing the noise production of said processes as much as possible.

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