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Protect Your Eyes

by Dr. Isabel Perry, “The Safety Doctor”

 

 

1129 words

 

It only takes a second to injure your eyes.  The injury could result from one moment of carelessness, or from something over which you have no control.  Protecting your eyes is not only your employers’ responsibility, it is yours.  Regular eyeglasses are never considered eye protection in the workplace.

 

Every year approximately 100,000 workers have eye injuries, costing industry over $330,000,000.  Yes, over $330 million.  Here are some other statistics:

 

¨      9 out of 10 injuries could have been avoided using safety procedures and the right eye protection

¨      3 out of 5 workers who were injured wore NO eye protection

¨      40% of those wearing eye protection had the wrong type

 

Many types of eye protection can be used.  Wearing regular glasses by themselves is dangerous because they are not made to sustain any type of impact.

 

Eye injuries are divided into three categories:

  1. Physical
  2. Chemical
  3. Thermal/radiation

 

Some of the common hazards are:

¨      Heat

¨      Glare

¨      Splash

¨      Sparks

 

1. Physical injuries

 

A. High Impact

Physical injuries are thought of as flying objects hitting us in the front of the eye or head area. These might include:

  • Hanging objects – ropes, chains, cables
  • Protruding objects – hooks, racks, boards

 

Type of Protection Needed:

§         High impact protection like safety glasses or goggles

§         Lenses made of polycarbonate – the most impact resistant material

§         If the job requires side vision, safety glasses are preferable

 

B. Particles at high speed

The most common injury caused by:

  • Dust and debris from sanding, grinding, chipping, etc.

Type of Protection Needed:

Fast moving particles smaller than a grain of sand can cause significant damage to the eye.  Thought must be given to what types of particles might be flying around on a routine basis because there is a difference between impact resistance and. scratch resistance.

 

§         Plastic and polycarbonate lenses are high impact resistant but less able to resist scratches.

§         Glass lenses will shatter on high impact, but are very resistant to scratches from dust and grit.

§         Polycarbonate lenses that are coated with a scratch resistant surface will handle both problems.

 

2. Chemicals and Fumes

 

Type of Protection Needed:

§         If working around dangerous chemicals goggles should form a snug seal around the face and have hooded ventilators

§         In extremely dangerous situations, do not use ventilators

§         Goggles need to be specially coated to prevent fogging

 

3. Heat

 

Type of Protection Needed:

§         A face shield that covers the face and neck

§         Usually made of acetate or other flexible plastic

§         Might be visor style

§         Extreme heat or concentrated light might require the use of a welding helmet

 

All face shields should be used WITH other eye protection – never alone.

 

 

EYE PROTECTION BEGINS WITH SUPPORT OF UPPER MANAGEMENT

 

The protection of workers’ eyes, as well as the effectiveness of all other safety procedures in the workplace, begins with the active support of upper management.  Several steps need to be taken:

¨      An appropriate safety program must be put in place

¨      Engineering controls that can be implemented, should be

o       Controls like permanently installed shields and machine guards can greatly reduce risks and ultimately save the company money.

¨      Proper equipment maintenance schedules should be developed and adhered to, whether daily, weekly, monthly, or annual.

¨      Training should be conducted in safety procedures and in the wearing and care of safety equipment. 

o       Training plays a vital role in reducing injuries

o       All employees should know what is appropriate eye protection for each work area so that if they have to enter, they have the correct protection

o       All visitors should be required to wear protection when traveling through areas; if all employees know what’s required, they can make sure that people are protected.

¨      Regular status reviews of procedures is necessary to keep up to date with changes in the workplace

 

 

EYE PROTECTION MAINTENANCE

 

Proper care and daily maintenance of eye protection is paramount to eye safety. Some guidelines in addition to any provided by the company or manufacturer:

¨      Clean eyewear after each use

¨      Disinfect eyewear that is shared among workers

¨      Wash glasses in warm water with soap, rinse thoroughly, then use disinfectant and hang to dry

¨      Store eyewear in case to prevent scratching

¨      Special antifogging products can be used if appropriate to the work location

¨      Before wearing, check for damaged parts and replace any part that is scratched, faded, cracked

¨      Before wearing, check for loose parts and secure them

¨      If eyewear is assigned, be sure each person labels eyewear with their name

 

IF AN ACCIDENT HAPPENS

 

NEVER RUB YOUR EYE!!!

 

Our first instinct when something gets in our eye or it is injured is to rub our eyes.  Do not do it!

You will cause more damage. Here are some guidelines on what to do:

 

1.      Physical

 

A. Blows to the eye

¨      Do apply a cold compress immediately to the eye for 15 minutes and again each hour to reduce pain and swelling

¨      See a doctor if there is discoloration of the surrounding skin

 

B. Cuts and punctures

¨      Do lightly bandage and see a doctor immediately

¨      Do not wash eye with water

¨      Do not try to help and get the object out

 

C. Dust and other specks in the eye

¨      Do lift the upper eyelid and pull it outward and down over the lower eyelid

o       This should induce tears, which can wash out small particles

¨      Do keep eye closed, apply a light bandage and see a doctor if the speck doesn’t wash out

¨      Do not try to get the speck out

¨      Do not rub the eye

 

2.      Chemical burns

Chemicals such as caustics and acids may be extremely dangerous.  Chemical “irritants” are less dangerous.  All contact with chemicals should be treated the same way:

 

¨      Do flush eyes with water immediately for 15 minutes.  Keeping eye open as wide as possible, hold it under running water and flush it out

¨      Do see a doctor IMMEDIATELY

¨      NEVER BANDAGE THE EYE OR USE AND EYE CUP

 

 

A FINAL WORD OF CAUTION

 

¨      Face shields, by themselves, don’t provide enough protection for your eyes.

¨      Contact lenses, by themselves, don’t provide enough protection in an industrial setting.

¨      Contact lenses should not be worn in a hazardous environment unless accompanied by appropriate safety eyewear protection.

¨      Plastic lenses are advised for protection against possible molten metal splashing.

 

Protecting workers in the workplace from injury is everyone’s responsibility:

 

¨      Get the right eye protection

¨      Use it

¨      Work safely

¨      Know what to do in case of an accident

¨      Work together to make and keep your workplace a safe environment for everyone

 

Eyesight is precious; do everything you can to protect your eyes and the eyes of everyone you work with!

 

Dr. Isabel Perry is an internationally-known safety expert, motivational speaker, author and safety educator.  Based in Orlando, Florida, she can be reached at 407-291-1209 or via e-mail at [email protected]