The Workplace Risk of Wearing Contact Lenses

Medicine and vision concept - young woman with contact lens, close up
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Contact lenses: who knew?

Hundreds of thousands of workers depend on them and wear them every day to work. Most of us, as workers, have no idea that those tiny soft and hard contact lenses may pose a safety hazard to us.

As an individual who has to wear contact lenses daily, and as a worker and health and safety professional, I find this an interesting subject to ponder.

Due to the fact that glasses do not provide the correction needed for my eye condition, I have no choice but to wear contact lenses and, it seems, to put myself and my eyes at risk. This risk comes from the possible damage that can come from exposure to chemical or biological hazards while wearing contact lenses.

The Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has provided a fact sheet titled Contact Lenses at Work.

Click here to read the full fact sheet.

The fact sheet covers many aspects of the potential and somewhat controversial facts of wearing contact lenses at work, such as:

  • Situations where contact lenses may be hazardous in the workplace
  • The difference between possible hazards of soft and hard contact lenses
  • Wearing contact lenses with full face respirators
  • Health and Safety laws linked to contact lens use in the workplace.

It is interesting to note that not all Canadian jurisdictions have specific laws regarding the wearing of contact lenses, even though the hazards are common throughout all Canadian workplaces. In the development of items that cause hazards to workers, contact lenses do need to be included on that list as yet this is now one more topic requiring a proper hazard assessment. Our eyes depend on it!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Review your provincial H&S legislation with regard to wearing contact lenses. Is the topic addressed? Is it in the act, the regulations or in a guideline?
  2. Think about a job you have had and the type of work you were doing, would wearing contact lenses lead to greater potential risk? If so, what biological, chemical, or physical hazards should be assessed to reduce the potential risk? What type of controls, engineering, administrative or worker would you recommend to reduce the potential risk?