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Why medical eye protection is crucial in the healthcare industry?

Is medical eye protection is necessary in the healthcare industry?

medical eye protection

The ones who take care of others' health should ensure that their health is taken care of. Healthcare professionals often work in hazardous & risky situations. PPEs are vital for healthcare professionals and are treated as secondary skin. You must have seen healthcare professionals wearing surgical hand gloves, but how often do you see them wearing eye protection PPE? This article explains the importance of medical eye protection PPE in the healthcare industry.

Why should you don medical eye protection in the healthcare industry?

NIOSH has reported that there are around 2000 cases of eye injuries at the workplace every day. The statistics show that eye injuries occur quite frequently at workplaces. According to eye specialists & safety experts, at least 80% of eye injuries can be completely prevented while at least 15% of eye injury severity can be reduced. One of the best practices to ensure eye safety is donning eye protection PPE.

OSHA has made PPE mandatory in risky & hazardous workplaces. The eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of the human body and pave the entrance to airborne pathogens, fluids, and droplets. These are more or less exposed via contact with the patients. Once these enter the eyes, they travel through the ocular membrane to other body parts to damage or infect them. And of course, no one would like acid to enter their eyes. Healthcare professionals need to ensure that they always stay protected with the help of medical eye protection PPE. Let’s find out why?

What are the hazards & risks in a healthcare workplace?

In healthcare workplaces. the highest number of eye injuries are reported while measuring body fluids (like blood). Nearly 2/3rd of cases were eye injuries. The most common reason was the lack of medical eye protection PPE. And the most common excuse was that the professionals didn’t feel they required the PPE. It arises because of the lack of answers to the above-mentioned question.

The other primary reasons for eye injuries in healthcare are chemicals, vapor or fumes exposure, UV or IR exposure, and sharp objects. And of course, there’s always a risk of providing pathogens a pathway into the human body. A few pathogens may even cause eye injuries. The most common pathway for pathogens to enter the eyes is saliva droplets. Appropriate medical eye protection PPE saves medical professionals from all or a few of these hazards.

medical eye protection PPE

Tips to keep your eyes safe in healthcare industries

  • Understand hazards at the workplace. Employers should ensure that the employees are aware of the risks & hazards.
  • Active steps should be taken to eliminate hazards & risks. (Discussed ahead)
  • Use appropriate eye protection PPE. 
  • PPE must be stored, maintained, and handled carefully. Eye protection PPE should be checked for any damage before donning them. Replace eye protection PPE if you find them damaged.

How to eliminate hazards in healthcare industries?

PPEs should be considered the last (yet mandatory) option for safety. The primary step that employers must take is to eliminate the hazards at the workplace. It can be done by identification, control, modifications, and elimination. The steps are as follows -

  • Identification of hazards & risks by conducting an assessment of the workplace. This can be done by third parties who have an experienced team with proper knowledge of safety & hazard identification.
  • Classification of hazards based on their severity & probability of occurrence. 
  • The hazards are classified based on the ease of mitigating them. It can be done by replacing the process (from which the hazard originates) or modifying the process by tweaking a few instruments or steps.
  • Taking active steps to implement the elimination of hazards.

For information, check out a blog on hazard prevention in healthcare industries.

How to choose medical eye protection PPE?

The selection of eye protection PPE completely depends upon the risks & hazards that the workplace poses. If there is a combination of different hazards & risks, then appropriate PPE should be selected. For example, check out the following hazards and the PPE you must don.

medical eye protection
  1. If there’s a risk of exposure to chemicals like acids, alkalis, and others, one should don chemical splash safety goggles.
  2. If there’s a risk of radiation exposure like UV (ultraviolet), IR (Infrared), and X-rays, one must don specially designed radiation protective safety goggles or face shields.

Note - Side shields are used as additional protection and don’t necessarily protect the wearer. They don’t satisfy the OSHA requirements in medical workplaces. So, they can’t be classified under PPE for healthcare industries.

There are certain safety standards that one should consider before choosing eye protection PPE. One may feel that the safety goggles are just like normal goggles, but they are specifically designed to protect from hazards. Based on the type of hazards, eye protection PPE is strengthened. So, to validate one must look for ANSI Z87.1 certified mark. The marking may be on the lens or frame and is based on the manufacturer. The marking is proof that the eye protection PPE meets the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards & strict guidelines. These standards & guidelines comprise minimum lens dimensions, appropriate lens thickness, lens material (polycarbonate or plastic), and frame & lens fitting (this helps to understand whether the goggles can brace the impact). 

Note - Users must ensure that they are buying from reputed brands.  

Types of eye protection PPE

Safety glasses -

medical eye protection - safety glasses

This eye protection PPE is generally not used in healthcare industries. They are seldomly used when there is a risk of flying debris or pathogens. Safety glasses can be attached to side shields which provide additional protection.

Safety goggles -

medical eye protection - safety goggles

Safety goggles, especially chemical splash goggles are widely used in healthcare industries. They act as a protective shield between the eyes & the hazard. Safety goggles are capable of protecting from fluids (like blood, saliva, etc). Safety goggles can be donned over regular specs as well. They are highly resistant to impact.

Face shields -

medical eye protection - face shields

Full-face shields are used when dealing with highly dangerous chemicals or pathogens. They provide additional (face) protection as well. It is recommended that the eye protection PPE should be along with face shields so that even if the shield is exposed, there is an additional layer of protection.

Radiation protection glasses/goggles -

These are widely used in healthcare industries to protect personnel from radiation like UV, IR, and X-rays. They are designed to protect the eyeballs, eyes, and side areas of the eyes. Additionally, they are designed to be anti-fog. They have resistance against impact & are built with shatterproof material. They are also available with side shields that provide additional protection.

You can also check out our article on the selection of eye protection PPE.

FAQ - Why do healthcare workers don’t wear safety glasses?

92% of cases of workers exposed to hazards reported that they weren’t donning any medical eye protection PPE. So, why do healthcare workers don’t prefer wearing PPE? The major & overwhelming reason is discomfort.

Wearing PPE causes discomfort. Especially, if they are not of the proper size. Though many brands market themselves as one size fits all although the feedback states otherwise.  Moreover, fogging is another major discomfort that causes blurred vision and higher risk (as one has to take them off and wipe them). Personnel who wear PPE over their regular specs find it highly uncomfortable.

Interested ones can check out our article on how to stop eye protection PPE from fogging when wearing a mask.


medical eye protection

Medical eye protection PPE works like a barrier between the eyes & the hazard. It is important to note that the barrier is special and not any other eyewear. You can’t wear your usual spectacles and call them medical eye protection. These PPEs are specially designed and tailor-made for a few specific hazards & risks. Using medical eye protection appropriately is absolutely necessary. We hope that the article has helped you to understand the importance of medical eye protection PPE. Stay true! Stay Healthy!