Whether you need to read information on a computer screen or use your eyes to maneuver a construction vehicle on a job site, clear vision helps you get your work done while staying safe.
Although people tend to focus on the back and brain when they think about debilitating work injuries, eye injuries can also severely impact your ability to work, and they occur more often than you might think.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day in the U.S., approximately 2000 workers suffer an eye injury, and more than 100 of these incidents result in 1 or more days of missed work.
Fortunately, most Alabama workers who experience an on-the-job eye injury are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits while they recover.
Top causes of eye injuries in the workplace
There are many different ways that you might injure your eye at work, including:
- Flying debris is one of the most common causes of eye injuries. Tiny pieces of metal and glass can have especially sharp edges that cause corneal abrasions and other types of injuries. However, you can also sustain an injury from larger airborne objects, including staples, nails or splinters of wood.
- Chemical burns can happen if certain substances splash into your eyes. These types of injuries can also occur if you rub your eyes while a toxic chemical is on your hands. If you receive a chemical burn to your eye, you could experience profound vision loss without quick and proper treatment.
- Radiation and flash burns are additional serious eye injuries that people who work around strong light sources could experience. Welders are especially at risk of these eye injuries since the UV rays that occur during arc welding can essentially sunburn the eye.
Please note that if you work with chemicals, bright lights or machinery that could cause airborne objects, you’re at an increased risk of sustaining an eye injury, so you should take all appropriate precautions.
Common symptoms of an eye injury or vision loss
The eyes are sensitive to pain and discomfort, which helps workers quickly spot a potential injury.
Most people first notice pain and excessive tearing, which can occur as the eye attempts to flush a foreign object or substance from the eye.
Redness and swelling are also common, especially if a flash burn or exposure to chemicals occurs.
If the injury is severe, you might notice rapid vision loss. Blurring or seeing dark areas in your field of vision are two signs that indicate a severe eye injury. Be sure to seek immediate medical care if you experience these symptoms, as they can result in permanent problems without prompt treatment.
Treatment for an eye injury at work
In many cases, early intervention at work can help reduce the severity of an eye injury.
- Flushing a chemical out of your eyes using the designated wash station at your workplace is one way to avoid vision loss from an exposure.
- If an object punctures your eye, then creating a shield to hold it in place until you can get professional care can prevent it from moving around and causing additional damage.
- Once your condition is stabilized, your next and most critical step is to seek immediate emergency medical care.
Fortunately, workers who suffer an eye injury tend to have a fairly good prognosis if they’re able to treat their condition right away.
Alabama workers’ compensation after an eye injury
Experiencing an eye injury is frightening. On top of worrying about your vision, you may also be concerned about how you will manage a potential loss of income along with a sudden inflow of medical bills. Workers’ compensation is meant to help injured workers with their recovery from a workplace accident.
In Alabama, most employers with 5 or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system. That means that in Alabama, you can receive benefits for a workplace eye injury, even if you think you might have made a mistake that led to the accident.
What workers’ comp benefits am I entitled to after an eye injury?
Eligible workers are entitled to compensation benefits for the following:
- Medical expenses. Workers’ comp covers all necessary medical expenses, including doctor and emergency room visits, surgeries, medication, hospitalization, medical supplies and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages. If a work injury prevents you from working or only enables you to work in a limited capacity, you’re typically entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly wage for a period of time that varies depending on your disability.
- Death benefits. If you die from a work-related injury, workers’ comp provides benefits to certain dependents to cover funeral costs and wage loss.
Steps to take after an eye injury in Alabama to get workers’ comp benefits
- Seek medical care. Eye injuries can be serious, so you should never wait to seek medical care if you have a suspected eye injury. Additionally, waiting too long to see a doctor after a work accident can make it harder to connect your injury to your work accident, which could jeopardize your workers’ comp claim.
- Report your injury. In the state of Alabama, you must report your eye injury to your employer within 5 days of its occurrence. In some instances, you have as many as 90 days, but you should report it as soon as possible to ensure your chance at compensation. Although you might have given a supervisor verbal notice regarding the incident at the time it happened, it’s best to submit a written notice that you can use as documentation during your claim.
- File a First Report of Injury. Once you notify your employer, they will then be required to submit a First Report of Injury Form. This form starts the process of filing your claim, and it will include information about your injury and your salary for the insurance company to use to develop a reasonable settlement.
- Contact an attorney. If your employer refuses to uphold their responsibility to file this report or if your claim is denied, you’ll need to reach out to a workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights to compensation.
Take action to prevent eye injuries in the workplace
Both employers and their employees are responsible for establishing a safe work environment.
You can do your part to avoid an eye injury by wearing the appropriate protective equipment and maintaining a clean and organized workspace. Employers can also help prevent injuries by providing their employees with proper safety training and protective gear, such as goggles or face shields.
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Contact an Alabama workers’ compensation attorney
An eye injury at work can be life-changing, and the process of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can be complex. Employers and their insurance companies often try to deny claims or minimize the amount of compensation injured workers receive. An attorney can help you navigate the process of filing a claim and negotiate with your employer and their insurer to make sure you receive maximum compensation.
If you’ve experienced an eye injury or any other illness or injury at work, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Nomberg Law Firm. Our attorneys have extensive experience fighting for injured Alabama workers to get them the money they deserve.