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Loss of Vision

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 152, Section 36, there are certain types of “Specific Injuries” that will entitle an employee to additional monetary compensation. This money is typically paid in a one-time lump sum payment, and it will not affect the amount of workers’ compensation benefits to which an employee will otherwise be entitled for lost wages and medical expenses. There are a variety of different injuries included in this section, such as the loss of a hand, arm, foot, or leg, as well as a loss of hearing or loss of vision.

Loss of One Eye

Our workers’ comp lawyers have seen in various cases over the years, there are many ways a person can lose the use of one eye. For an accident involving loss of vision, the law looks at whether the employee has suffered a loss by enucleation. According to the New York Eye Cancer Center, enucleation is the removal of the entire eyeball in a way that typically leaves the eye muscles and remaining orbital contents intact. This will cause an employee to lose sight in that one eye, but it will not cause the employee to lose the cosmetic movement of the eye. These days there are very good prosthetics, as compared to the glass eyes of the past, and with a properly fitted artificial eye it will be very difficult for anyone to notice when an employee is missing an eye. The eye is not functional, and the employee will no longer have binocular vision.

Total loss of the use of an eye can occur when the eye is completely removed or if the vision is not correctable to where the employee can form singular binocular vision using both eyes. This would be what many consider to be legally blind, even though the employee would have some level of vision in the injured eye. Loss of vision in one eye can also be found where the injured eye is not correctable to 20/70 using glasses or contact lenses.

When an eye is lost in such a way and that loss is due to a workplace accident, an employee is typically entitled to additional compensation. Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 152, Section 36 (1)(a), if the loss due to enucleation or for other medical reasons is in one eye, additional compensation benefits will be calculated by multiplying the State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) in Massachusetts and multiplying that figure by 39.

Loss of Both Eyes

Pursuant Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 152, Section 36 (1)(b), if an employee loses the use of both eyes due to an on-the-job accident or work-related illness, the employee will be entitled to benefits for a specific injury, which is calculated by taking the SAWW at the time of the injury and multiplying it by 96. Again, this can include total loss of vision, or vision that is not correctable to 20/70 using contact lenses or glasses.

If there is a partial loss of vision in one or both eyes, which can be corrected to normal vision using glasses or contact lenses, the employee will be entitled to specific injury benefits calculated by multiplying the SAWW at the time of the injury by seven.

Workplace Eye Injuries

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are many ways an employee can suffer a loss of vision while at work. More than 20,000 work-related eye injuries occur each year, making it a relatively major problem. The types of eye injuries incurred range from mild eyestrain to the complete enucleation and loss of vision in one or both eyes. Boston workers are by no means immune to on-the-job eye injuries.

The use of safety glasses can significantly reduce the risk of an occupational eye injury in occupations in the greater Boston area, or elsewhere, where the risk of an eye injury is often present. Studies by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have found that a wearing safety glasses or goggles would reduce the number of eye injuries each year by as much as 90 percent.

The following are some common causes of eye injuries at work:

  • Tools – such as when a tool accidentally hits a worker in the eye.
  • Flying objects – this can include shards of metal and glass. Any occupation that involves using a grinding wheel of any type poses a serious risk of shards of metal hitting a worker’s eye. To make matters worse, these shards of metal may be blazing hot from friction caused by the grinding wheel.
  • Chemicals – we have seen many accidents where caustic chemicals splashed in an employee’s eyes. Depending on the type of chemical and the length of time it takes to fully flush the eyes, this type of injury can result in permanent blindness.
  • Particles – many jobs involve working in an environment where small particles of material are sent flying into the air. Without adequate protection, these materials may come into contact with an employee’s eyes, causing partial or total blindness. Carpentry jobs, including mill work where cabinets and counters are made, poses a significant risk for eye injuries. This is why it is recommended that eye protection be worn at all times.

Many machines that throw particles into the air could be fitted with proper guards to deflect or contain a significant number of these particles. This is called proper machine guarding, and many injuries occur at work due to improperly guarded machines. Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys regularly handle cases involving machine guarding accidents and are available to further discuss your workplace accident.

Signs of An Eye Injury

Some types of eye injuries, even ones that can eventually result in a complete loss of vision in one or both eyes, are not so obvious at first. If a person has pain in one or both eyes and has trouble seeing, this might be a symptom of a serious eye injury for which immediate treatment is required. If one eye does not move or track as well as the other, it may be a sign of serious eye injury. One eye sticking out further than the other can also be a sign of a serous eye injury that may eventually lead to a loss of vison. The feeling that something is under the eyelid that cannot be removed easily may be sign of serious problems, and an employee should seek treatment as soon as possible. An employee should also tell his or her employer or supervisor as soon as an eye injury is suspected. By doing so, the employee properly puts their employer on notice of a workplace accident, should a workers’ compensation claim later be required.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

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