IHSA offers tips for safe solar eclipse viewing

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, briefly turning day into darkness for a portion of the continent—including southern Ontario. Depending on where you’re located in the province, the eclipse will be visible between 2 and 4 p.m.

A total solar eclipse is when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, appearing to completely cover it for a few minutes. It’s a rare event that captures many people’s attention, but for that reason it also presents safety concerns.

Looking directly at the sun can damage your eyes—even when the sun is covered during an eclipse. If you want to view the eclipse, do not do so without specialized eye protection.


Eclipse safety for workers

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light can harm the sensitive cells in your eyes. Overexposure to UV light can cause symptoms including blurry or distorted vision and blind spots. It can also contribute to longer-term vision problems.

The only safe way to directly look at a solar eclipse is by using eclipse glasses or solar viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard. These devices have been tested and are certified to filter enough sunlight and solar radiation to ensure your eyes are protected when viewing an eclipse.

On the other hand, it is not safe to view an eclipse with:

  • Regular sunglasses, no matter how dark they are. (ISO-certified solar filters are 1,000 times darker than ordinary sunglass lenses.)
  • A camera, telescope, or binoculars, unless they are fitted with filters specifically designed for solar viewing.
  • A welder’s mask with a filter rating below Shade 14.

Safe, indirect methods of watching the eclipse (i.e., not looking directly at the sun) include using a pinhole camera or viewing the eclipse online via a livestream.


Eclipse safety for employers

Since this year’s total solar eclipse will take place during the normal workday, employers have a duty to inform workers who work outside about the risks of looking at the eclipse.

Here are some ways to help protect workers:

  • Deliver a safety talk to inform workers of the health risks that come with looking at the sun, including during an eclipse.
  • Complete a hazard analysis that accounts for the change in conditions and tasks being completed during the eclipse. Review the analysis with workers.
  • A total eclipse creates temporary darkness. Ensure the jobsite is adequately lit and that workers wear high-visibility clothing.
  • Inform workers of safe ways to view the eclipse, emphasizing the importance of using approved eye protection, not makeshift filters.
  • Set up a designated eclipse-viewing area—with proper equipment such as ISO-approved solar viewers or pinhole cameras—where interested workers can observe the event safely.
  • Let workers know to seek immediate medical help if they experience health issues during the eclipse.

By ensuring that the risks and controls related to eclipse viewing are well understood, it is possible for everyone to enjoy this unique event without endangering their eyesight or overall well-being.