Across many professions and industries, employees are routinely exposed to hazardous chemicals at work. Everyone from scientists, dealing with chemicals in labs, to janitors who use chemicals for cleaning purposes, is exposed to these substances in various settings. Unfortunately, many chemicals commonly used in workplace settings are extremely hazardous, and cause workers serious and long-lasting eye injuries.
According to Prevent Blindness America, an organization dedicated to promoting eye safety in the workplace, over 2,000 workers injure their eyes in work-related incidents every day, and of these incidents, 10-20% result in temporary or permanent blindness.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that eye injuries cost over $300 million each year in lost production time, medical expenses, and workers compensation benefits. The high prevalence and cost of workplace eye injuries has resulted in a nationwide education campaign, started by OSHA, to seek better eye protection practices and minimize eye injury risks in workplaces around the country. In particular, OSHA is focusing on the craft industries – including mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, and general repairers, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 40% of workplace eye injuries occur in these industries.
The good news is that many of these injuries can be prevented. The best way to prevent blindness and vision loss from workplace accidents is to wear proper eye protection at all times when dealing with hazardous chemicals. It is often difficult to predict how different chemicals will react when brought into contact with one another, and protective eyewear can mitigate the vast majority of these risks.
Moreover, when working in the outdoors, eyewear should be worn at all times because sudden wind changes can bring a chemical directly into one’s eyes without any warning. In any work setting that contains hazardous chemicals, even individuals just passing through the area should wear protective eyewear.
For machines that use hazardous chemicals, various safety measures should be taken, including regularly checking the equipment for leaks, and making sure it has any needed splash guards or work screens.
Depending on the chemicals, and the worker’s proximity to those chemicals, protective eyewear can range from goggles and face shields to welding helmets and full-face respirators. OSHA recommends that workers who are in the proximity of chemicals wear both goggles and face shields to provide the best protection.
Moreover, employers should set up first aid stations at various places around work sites where workers can quickly wash their eyes and administer any necessary first aid if they are exposed to harmful chemicals. Employers should also train employees on the hazards of working with chemicals, and what symptoms to look for to detect eye injuries as early as possible.
For workers who do sustain eye injuries, Massachusetts workers’ compensation provides lost wages and medical costs to help their recovery. By law, all Massachusetts employers must obtain an insurance policy that covers all reasonable and necessary medical expenses for injuries sustained by workers while conducting work-related activities, for as long as necessary. In addition, the policy must provide a portion of the worker’s lost wages if the injury prevents the worker from working for 5 or more days.
In addition, in eye injury cases, injured workers may be able to receive additional benefits by establishing third party liability. While workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and lost wages, it shields employers from having to pay damages for pain and suffering. However, if the worker can establish that someone other than his or her employer was at fault for the injury, such as a subcontractor, or the designer and manufacturer of a defective machine or defective eyewear, the worker can bring a personal injury lawsuit against that other entity and win additional damages.
If you have sustained an eye injury while at work, contact the Massachusetts vision loss attorneys at the law firm of Altman & Altman. Our team of skillful lawyers will help you file your workers’ compensation claim, ensure that you receive all of the insurance benefits you are entitled to, and investigate your case to see if third party liability is an option. Our workers’ compensation lawyers have extensive experience handling blindness and temporary vision loss cases, and know the ins and outs of Massachusetts workers compensation law and the Department of Industrial Accidents’ dispute resolution process. We will take care of your case from start to finish so that you can focus on recovering.
Our offices are located in downtown Boston and in Cambridge, making us easily accessible to residents throughout Greater Boston. We provide all clients with a free and confidential case consultation to fully explain their rights and options. Let us help you through this difficult process and ensure that you get every benefit you are entitled to under the law