Viewing a solar eclipse: Workplace safety

A solar eclipse happens several times each year, but with one happening in the United States, it's important to talk about workplace safety when one does occur. The solar eclipse on August 21st is the first time a total eclipse has been visible since 1979, which is one reason it's being taken so seriously. It's a major event, but for people who have to work, it's also a threat.

Solar eclipses have the potential to cause blindness if you look at the sun. As a result, many employers choose to close for the day, so they are not liable for injuries their employees could suffer. Others have viewing parties to celebrate the event, but as such, need to provide a safe way to view it.

How do you safely view a solar eclipse?

NASA requires employers who are hosting or encouraging viewing parties to provide ISO 12312-2 compliant viewing glasses. Additionally, employers should focus on discussing safety during the event. Employees should not look directly at the sun or use optical devices to look at the sun. Even with solar filters, those devices still won't protect workers' eyes.

What happens if you hurt yourself watching the eclipse while you're on the job?

Whether it's a sponsored event or you were doing your typical job when the injury occurred, your employer may be liable for the injuries you've suffered. If employees are compelled to attend the event or are required to be at work and are injured, then workers' compensation rules should apply as usual, meaning that they can seek medical attention with workers' compensation to foot the bill.

Solar eclipses like the 2017 Total Eclipse aren't one-off events. Knowing the safety protocols can help protect workers today and in the future when there are cosmic events being hosted at various workplaces.

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