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How workers can protect their eyes

Workers in New Jersey, especially those in the construction, manufacturing, and mining industries, know how important eye safety is. Every year, more than 20,000 workers suffer an eye injury, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with over 40 percent of the most serious injuries occurring in the industries mentioned above. Eye injuries cost companies more than $300 million annually in delays, workers' compensation benefits, and medical care.

90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented, though, simply by wearing the appropriate eyewear, including safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and helmets. They should be OSHA-compliant and approved by the American National Standards Institute. Also, workers can prevent injuries from worsening by getting immediate medical help. This is true whether they suffer from bleeding in the eye, an enlarged pupil, torn eyelids, or difficulty moving an eye.

Desk workers are also liable to incur eye injuries. Computer screens can slow down the blink rate by 50 percent, causing eye strain and possibly headaches and fatigue. Such workers can prevent injury by keeping their computer screen 25 inches away and by following the 20-20-20 rule: they should stand up every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to help the eyes relax. Smartphones and digital screens produce glare, so workers should also reduce brightness on these.

The workers' compensation program can reimburse the victims of workplace injuries regardless of who, if anyone, was negligent. Filing for these benefits does waive the victim's right to file a lawsuit against the employer; nonetheless, victims may decide to hire an attorney to assist them so that they receive the maximum settlement that the state can offer. The attorney may hire medical experts to show how extensive the injuries are and bring in investigators to show how the injuries resulted at the workplace.

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