Occupational injury is a major source of ocular trauma and is often preventable. A statewide population-based survey of severe work-related ocular injury was generated by using the California Hospital discharge database to identify hospitalized ocular injury and workers compensation as principal payor to identify work-relatedness. Information concerning diagnoses, procedures, causes of injury, length of hospital stay, total hospital charges and disposition at hospital discharge were obtained for injuries occurring during the calendar year 1988. A total of 455 admissions for work-related ocular trauma were identified. The most common work-related ocular trauma diagnoses associated with hospitalizations were open globe injury (46%), adnexal wounds (20%), orbital fractures (11%), and traumatic hyphema (11%). The most common causes of work-related ocular trauma were foreign-body or projectile objects (19%), transport vehicles (18%), cutting or piercing objects (17%), and assaults (9%). Approximately 8% reported other than routine disposition at time of hospital discharge, including long-term nursing or rehabilitation services and death. Mean hospital stay when ocular trauma was the principal admitting diagnosis was 3.7 days. Results differed significantly for admissions reporting ocular trauma as the principal admitting diagnosis compared to admissions that did not. Hospitalized work-related ocular trauma is represented by a wide spectrum of injuries with substantial morbidity and economic costs. Projected to the United States population, these data indicate annual hospital charges excluding professional fees of $14.6 million when work-related ocular trauma is the principal admitting diagnosis and $40 million for admissions where ocular trauma is either a principal or secondary diagnosis.