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Why Eye Protection is Non-Negotiable in Waste and Recycling

In the heart of the waste and recycling industry, there’s an often-overlooked hero – eye protection. Picture this: a bustling waste sorting facility, a hub of activity and efficiency, but also a hotbed for potential eye hazards. Unfortunately, according to OSHA, each day about 2,000 workers sustain an eye injury requiring medical treatment while at work. And EHS Today says, “recycling workers are more than twice as likely to be injured at work [than] the average worker”. Thankfully, more than 90% of these workplace eye injuries are preventable through the use of proper eye protection, according to Prevent Blindness America, which goes to show why wearing the right eye protection in the waste and recycling industry isn’t just a choice; it’s a necessity for every worker.

Eye Injuries in Waste and Recycling

The waste and recycling industry is full of potential hazards that can cause damage to workers’ eyes. Some of the most prevalent are particulate matter and dust, chemical exposure, and physical impact.

Particulate Matter and Dust

In a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), it was revealed that nearly 70% of reported eye injuries in waste and recycling industries are caused by airborne dust and particles. Dust and particulate matter can easily cause irritation, scratches, and eye infections that, if not treated, can lead to further injury. Additionally, this can cause blurry vision while working, which can lead workers to injure themselves further by not being able to see clearly when working around machinery and equipment.

Chemical Exposure

Chemicals are ever-present in the waste and recycling industry as OSHA states there are over 400 hazardous chemicals found in waste materials. For example, undetected cans or jugs containing a variety of liquids and chemicals can be punctured, resulting in an unexpected spray of hazardous liquids which could damage workers’ eyes. In fact, 20% of reported eye injuries in waste sorting facilities are due to chemical exposure, according to OSHA.

Physical Impact

Whether it’s an object flying off a packer truck or an object being ejected by a machine during sorting, projectiles and impact hazards are a real threat in waste and recycling. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a study revealed that 15% of eye injuries in the waste and recycling industry result from a physical impact. These physical impacts can cause swollen eyes, damage to the eye, and blindness.


Importance of Eye Protection

Eye protection stands as a cornerstone in safeguarding the well-being of workers in the waste and recycling industry, playing a pivotal role in preventing injuries and fortifying the overall safety of the workplace. Beyond its role as a preventive measure, eye protection is a shield against economic setbacks and a guardian of legal compliance.

Prevention of Injuries and Their Associated Costs

As mentioned before, eye protection can significantly reduce the number of eye injuries in the workplace – by over 90%! Imagine the transformative impact of a workplace with a 90% reduction in eye injuries – not only a boon for the workers but a game-changer for the business itself. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eye injuries in the waste and recycling industry result in an average of 20 days away from work, hindering productivity in the business. By adopting effective eye protection measures, businesses can create safer environments, fostering both employee well-being and operational efficiency.

Moreover, the financial ramifications of workplace eye injuries are substantial. Workplace eye injuries are estimated to cost more than $300 million annually in treatment, compensation, and productivity losses, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Investing in quality eye protection becomes an economically prudent decision, saving businesses from the burden of avoidable costs associated with workplace injuries.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

OSHA’s eye and face protection standard states that employers must provide suitable eye protection to workers exposed to eye hazards. Failure to follow these regulations can result in fines of up to $13,653 per violation. These penalties can accumulate swiftly, adding strain to the business. Moreover, failure to adhere to eye protection standards can tarnish the reputation of the business, eroding trust and credibility within the industry.

To avoid the pitfalls of legal penalties and reputational damage, it is imperative for businesses in the waste and recycling sector to prioritize and enforce eye protection standards. Ensuring that all employees are equipped with the appropriate eye protection not only aligns with regulatory requirements but also establishes a commitment to the safety and well-being of the workforce.

In essence, the importance of eye protection extends beyond the physical act of preventing injuries – it is a strategic investment in worker safety, financial stability, and the long-term reputation of businesses in the waste and recycling industry.


Ritz Safety Eye Protection

With over four decades of experience in safety, Ritz Safety has a commitment to providing high-quality, reliable safety gear. We offer several types of eye protection that provide varying levels of protection depending on the hazard you face.

Full Face Shields

Full face shields offer full face protection for times when in the presence of projectiles and chemical splashes to provide further protection than just safety glasses. They are usually used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles.

Shop our top full face shields below.

Regular Safety Glasses

Regular safety glasses are a great first start to your eye protection in the waste and recycling industry. With reinforced lenses and frames, they are designed to help protect your eyes from projectiles and impacts. They can feature anti-scratch coatings, ensuring durability and clear vision. Some options also have anti-fog coatings, something that can help reduce workers removing their safety glasses due to their lenses fogging while working.

Shop our top safety glasses picks below.

Prescribed Safety Glasses/Filtered Safety Glasses

Prescription safety glasses or filtered safety glasses are like regular safety glasses, but with additional correcting lenses or filters that can protect against certain lights or radiation.

Shop our top specialty safety glasses below.


Impact goggles or splash goggles are both great options for eye protection in the waste and recycling industry. Splash goggles can provide more protection than safety glasses from chemical splashes and dust or debris due to their face seal limiting airborne hazards reaching the eyes. Over-the-Glasses eye protection is also another great option for providing complete eye coverage while still being able to wear your own prescription glasses underneath.

Shop our top safety goggle picks below.


In conclusion, the waste and recycling industry, while vital for environmental sustainability, presents significant risks to workers’ eyes, which goes to show the importance of prioritizing eye protection. While an important factor, it’s not just about complying with regulations; it’s about safeguarding the well-being of all workers.

As we’ve seen, eye injuries not only impact individual lives, but also carry substantial financial and operational burdens for businesses in the waste and recycling industry. Fortunately, the right eye protection can make a profound difference. Which is why Ritz Safety offers a range of eye protection options designed to meet the many hazards faced by workers in waste sorting facilities. Explore our full range of eye protection options and ensure your team’s vision is protected! Or reach out to our experts today for help finding the eye protection you need to keep you and your team safe!


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