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Keven Moore: Half of all eye injuries occur at home, just as Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie

If you are a fan or viewer of The Today Show then you probably noticed that anchor Savannah Guthrie was absent from the NBC morning show last week while she underwent eye surgery after injury.

She is still working to repair the retina in her right eye, which tore last month while she was playing with her 3-year-old son Charley, after the toddler threw a toy train at her eye.

Such injuries at home occur with some regularity and this incident reminded me of the time back when my 3-year-old son Austin decided to whack his mother right between the eyes with a small plastic toddler chair after she had temporary dosed off. His reasoning later was because he had been watching cartoons, and wanted to see the stars rise above his mother’s head, as he had just seen on TV when one of the cartoon characters was struck in the face.

Eye injuries affect many including others in my very own family. My grandfather lost an eye as a young boy when he was struck by a limb while walking through the woods and he spent his entire adult life with a glass eye. I can still remember as a boy the time he scarred me for life after he staged an accident in front of me and dropped his glass eye out on to the table as it rolled to a stop right in front of me.

As funny as that may be the fact is 50,000 Americans permanently lose all or part of their vision annually because of injury. In an article in WebMD.com, a study showed that nearly half of the 2.5 million eye injuries that occur annually in the U.S. happen in and around the home.

Many might think that the family home is a fairly unthreatening and safe setting and survey in a recent public survey commissioned by the American Academy of Ophthalmology show that people generally agree.

Less than half of survey respondents mentioned the home — especially the yard or garage — as the most common site of serious eye injury. Only 35 percent of those surveyed in the study claimed that they always wear protective eyewear when doing home repair or projects. As a safety and risk management professional who has helped plenty of friends and neighbors working on some DYI projects, I would have to speculate that that number is a little high from my estimations.

This alarming trend is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma now recommend that every household have at least one pair of ANSI-approved eyewear for use during projects and activities that may present a risk to an injury. (ANSI-approved protective eyewear is manufactured to meet the American National Standards Institute eye protection standard.)

Here are some examples of causes for injuries in and around the home:

Eye Injury Risks in the House

• Using hazardous products and chemicals such as oven cleaner and bleach for cleaning and other chores (accidents involving common household products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year).

• Cooking foods can splatter hot grease or oil.

• Opening champagne bottles during a celebration.

• Drilling or hammering screws or nails into walls or hard surfaces like brick or cement; the screws or nails can become projectiles, or fragments can come off the surface.

• Using hot objects such as curling irons around the face; inadvertent contact with the user’s eyes can cause serious injury.

•Loose rugs and railings or other hazards that could cause falls or slips.

Injury Risks in the Yard

• Mowing the lawn.

• Using a power trimmer or edger.

• Clipping hedges and bushes.

Eye Injury Risks in the Garage or Workshop

• Using tools (power or hand).

• Using bungee cords.

• Working with solvents or other chemicals.

• Any task that can produce fragments, dust particles or other eye irritants.

• Securing equipment or loads with bungee cords.

For all of these various activities, it’s important to remember that even nearby bystanders also face significant risk and should take precautions against eye injuries as well. This is particularly important for children who watch their parents perform routine chores in and around the home. Bystanders should wear eye protection too or leave the area where the chore is being done.

To prevent these debilitating eye injuries at home its been proven that wearing protective eyewear will prevent 90 percent of eye injuries, so make sure that your home has at least one approved pair and that you and your family members wear the eyewear when risks come into play.

Be Safe My Friends

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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