TOLEDO, Ohio — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 300,000 Americans visit an emergency room each year due to workplace eye injuries, with nearly half of them happening in three key industries: manufacturing, mining and construction.

Eye injuries—which can be related to simple eye strain to severe trauma—result in a personal and economic toll. Invariably, they result in time off from work and cost American employers more than $300 million annually in lost productivity, medical costs and workers’ compensation claims.

“As sobering as these numbers are, what is invariably overlooked is that as many as 90 percent of these injuries are preventable,” says Jeffery Gayer, Vice President of Product Development & Marketing for Impact Products, LLC., a leading manufacturer of professional safety products and protective gear for workers in a variety of industries.  “And the best way to prevent them is to wear appropriate protective eyewear on the job.”

According to Gayer, these are some of the most common causes of eye injury on the job:

  • Flying objects such as glass, wood, or bits of metal
  • Tools
  • Airborne particulates
  • Chemicals
  • To help workers protect their eyes in a work environment, Gayer recommends the following:
  • Educate workers on eye safety—“something that is often overlooked or its importance underappreciated.”
  • Take precautions to prevent injuries such as installing screens over equipment that might release a flying object into the eye.
  • Wear protective eye gear. Protective eye gear is so critical in protecting the eyes, yet many workers simply don’t—or won’t—wear them.

Many workers do not wear protective eye gear because they find them uncomfortable or they interfere with their work, adds Gayer. “But a big reason they do not wear eye gear, and this applies to men and women, is they simply do not like the way they look.”

While he is not suggesting protective eye gear must replicate designer eyewear, “it should mirror it.” “We have found that workers who are comfortable with the look and style of protective eye gear are more likely to wear it, even be proud to wear it. This can help prevent thousands of eye injuries every year.”

Read more: Worker PPE, Who Pays for It?