The eyes are vulnerable to injury and damage in many different types of work and environments. The maritime industry comes with many risks to personal safety, including damage to the eyes that can result in some degree of vision loss or even total blindness. These injuries are of special concern for workers out to sea who may not have quick access to a specialist for treatment.
If you have suffered an eye injury on the job in the maritime industry, you may be entitled to certain rights including compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. An eye injury may be minor, but it also has the potential to be serious and to cause permanent damage to the eyes. Make sure you work with an experienced advocate after an injury to ensure you get the justice to which you are entitled.
Types of Eye Injuries
Damage to the eye may result from one of many different types of injuries or accidents. A trauma, for instance, like a blunt blow to the eye has the potential to damage the eyelid, lens, iris, cornea, and even the back of the eye including the retina and optic nerve. A blunt strike may also fracture the orbital bone, the bone surrounding the eye socket.
Being struck with a sharper object may cause lacerations to the eyelid and various structures of the eyeball, including the tear duct. A puncture wound to the eye may result from being stabbed with or falling on a sharp or narrow object.
Even more common than these more traumatic injuries is getting debris in the eyes, like particles of dust, metal, dirt, or other substances. Infections in the eye can cause redness or inflammation as well as pain or itchiness. In less common situations the eyes may be damaged by chemical spills, fumes in the air, or may be burned by fire or steam.
Complications of Eye Injuries
Eye injuries are often minor. For example getting debris in the eye may cause irritation and blurry vision for a short period of time, but once the material is flushed out the eye can heal and normal vision typically returns. Depending on the severity of the accident and injury though, the damage may be more serious, long-lasting, and may result in permanent vision loss and disability.
Potential complications of eye injuries, in addition to vision loss and blindness, are recurring injuries, infections in the eyes, pain, eye dryness, scarring in the cornea, blood trapped in the eye, a torn iris, cataracts, hemorrhaging in the eye, and a detached retina. An eye injury may even cause glaucoma, a condition that results in reduced vision over time.
Treatment for Eye Injuries
Any eye injury should be treated by a doctor or specialist, but in many maritime situations that may not be possible immediately. First aid care for eye injuries may be needed for someone injured on a ship out at sea or on an offshore rig without a doctor. The eye should not be touched or rubbed in most cases. If the eyes have been damaged by chemicals, flushing them with water is crucial. For particles in the eyes, letting the tears wash them out is usually adequate, but eyewash can also be used.
For more serious damage to the eye, it is important to get medical attention right away if possible. A doctor or ophthalmologist can examine the eye and determine what kind of treatment is needed. Treatment may involve removing a foreign objects, administering medication to battle an infection, or even surgery to repair damage and to attempt to restore vision.
Eye Injuries in Maritime Work
The maritime industry is full of potential hazards that can cause eye injuries and damage. Debris in the work environment can get in the eyes and cause damage. Accidents that cause strikes to the eye may cause damage ranging from mild to severe, including lacerations, bruising, corneal damage, and even puncture wounds in and around the eyes. Fishing lines and hooks can get caught on eyelids or get in eyes and cause serious damage. Parts of equipment may strike a worker in the face and damage the eyes. Chemical cargo that is mishandled may harm eyes, as can steam from pipes and boilers.
All maritime work environments have the potential to cause eye injuries, but some are risker than others. Shipyards can be areas in which eye injuries are common results of accidents and mistakes. Men and women working on building or repairing ships are vulnerable to eye injuries and loss of vision from the ultraviolet radiation of welding and cutting tools and from particulates and dust in the air. The work that these individuals do can put them at risk for eye damage and vision loss, but even those not working with welding tools can be harmed by the work going on around them.
Eye injuries in a maritime setting are possible but also preventable. Most important to protecting the eyes is safety training along with safety gear. Appropriate eye protection can prevent most injuries but training is also important so that workers know how to use safety gear, when to wear protection, how to use equipment correctly and safely, and how to secure and work with harmful cargo, like chemicals.
What to Do if You Suffer an Eye Injury on the Job
If you work in the maritime industry and your eyes are injured in an accident, get medical attention right away. Immediate treatment is important for avoiding serious and long-lasting damage. If you can get to an eye doctor right away, do so. Once you have received treatment and a prognosis from your doctor, file an accident report with your employer. Your report, with eyewitness testimony, as well as your medical records will be important in making a claim for compensation if you need it.
Your next step should be to contact a maritime lawyer. Speak with this professional before you agree to any compensation from your employer. There are laws in place to protect your interests, so make sure you have an expert in your corner to guide you as you decide how to proceed. Your eye damage may be lasting and you may need as much compensation as you can fairly get.