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Workplace injuries: UV rays can cause eye damage

The sun is an essential element required for all life. However, excessive exposure to UV light can be harmful. In Oklahoma, workers might be aware of the potential workplace injuries of sunburn and skin cancer, but prolonged exposure could also compromise workers' immune systems and damage their eyes and vision. UV light can cause various eye diseases.

Excessive exposure to the sun can cause the natural lens of the eye to become cloudy -- a condition known as cataracts. The conjunctiva or the covering of the eye's white area can develop two types of growths. The first is a yellow bump or spot that can grow in the eye, and the second growth is fleshy and could expand to cover the cornea and limit vision. UV rays reflecting from snow or ice can cause snow blindness, indicated by blurry vision, watery eyes and swelling. Ocular melanoma is a cancer in the eye that can develop from UV light exposure.

Employers must provide safety training to ensure workers are aware of the hazards to which they might be exposed. Moreover, they must schedule work at times that would limit excessive exposure to the sun, especially if workers are unprotected. Wearing sunglasses that provide 100% blocking of UV rays can give some protection, and a hat can block some of UV rays. The eyes need protection even on days with cloudy conditions.

Eye damage could be irreversible, and at-risk workers should have their eyes checked for damage. Although the Oklahoma workers' compensation insurance program covers most workplace injuries, proving any of the mentioned eye and vision damage to be work-related might pose problems. This applies to any conditions that develop progressively because there is no date on which the injury occurred. However, an experienced workers' compensation attorney can provide valuable support and guidance in pursuit of benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.

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