Background: Occupational eye injuries are a significant source of injury in the workplace. Little population-based research in the area has been conducted, and is necessary for developing and prioritising effective interventions.
Methods: Workers’ compensation data from the state of Kentucky for the years 1994–2003 were analysed by demographics, injury nature and cause, cost, and occupational and industrial characteristics. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey was utilised to compute injury rates for demographic and occupational groups.
Results: There were 10 545 claims of ocular injury, representing 6.29 claims per 10 000 workers on average annually. A substantial drop in the claim rate was found after the state passed monetary penalties for injuries caused by employer negligence or OSHA violations. Claims by men were over three times more likely than those by women to have associated claim costs (OR 0.52; 95% CI 0.32 to 0.85; p = 0.009). The highest eye injury rates per 10 000 of 13.46 (95% CI 12.86 to 14.07) were found for the helpers/labourers occupation, and of 19.95 (95% CI 18.73 to 21.17) for the construction industry. The total cost of claim payments over the period was over $3 480 000, and average cost per claim approximated $331.
Conclusions: Eye injuries remain a significant risk to worker health, especially among men in jobs requiring intensive manual labour. Evidence showed that increased legislative regulation led to a decline in eye injuries, which was consistent with other recent findings in the area. Additionally, targeting groups most at risk, increasing worker training, providing effective eye protection equipment, and developing workplace safety cultures may together reduce occupational eye injuries.
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Competing interests: None.
IRB protocol: The state of Kentucky provided the researchers with the workers’ compensation data in which all the claimants were de-identified. As this was a secondary dataset, there was no need to obtain human subject protocol.
Contributors: BPM and IBH helped conceive the idea for the study, performed statistical analysis, and wrote portions of the manuscript. OAT performed background research and also wrote portions of the manuscript.