According to the CDC, over 800,000 people suffer eye injuries on the job each year in the United States. Those who have the highest reported rates of workplace eye injuries or vision loss include carpenters, welders, electricians, assembly line workers, mechanics, and computer data personnel.
The following are the common causes of eyes injuries at work:
- Blunt force trauma caused by falls, car accidents, falling inventory, and employee assaults
- Projected particles such as splintered wood, metal flakes, or shards of glass
- Tools such as nails, blades, wires, saws, cutting instruments, and commercial staples
- Hazardous chemicals that can cause severe burns and blindness
- Computer screen exposure
- Overexposure to ultraviolet rays
Workers who sustain an eye injury on the job have a right to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits cover medical expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, and two-thirds of lost wages. Although workers’ compensation doesn’t cover pain and suffering or emotional distress, an injured worker can file a private lawsuit against his or her employer outside of the workers’ comp system—in cases involving gross negligence—to recover those damages.
Receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits for Eye Injuries
In order to receive workers’ comp benefits for eye injuries and/or vision loss, you need to report your injury to your employer immediately. Next, you must fill out a “first report of injury” form or complete it as soon as your condition has stabilized.
If your eye injury requires additional treatment, speak with a workers’ comp representative to request a list of approved physicians, who are employed by the insurance company specifically to treat injured employees. The physician you choose is considered to your “primary treating physician.” In many cases, an eye injury needs the medical expertise of an ophthalmologist. If the approved list of physicians doesn’t include an ophthalmologist, ask the representative if you can pick one on your own.
Once your primary physician examines you and reviews your ophthalmologist’s prognosis, he or she will complete a “return to work” form. Your physician will determine whether or not you can return to your former job. If you have suffered a debilitating or permanent eye injury, your physician’s statement will explain whether you have a temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability, or total permanent disability.