Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Christian labour union website educates workers about eye-damage in the workplace

Getting ill, hurt, or killed on the job has special significance for people doing manual labour (however hi-tech related) on factory shop-floors, on construction sites, and in mines.  To celebrate with Christian Labour Association of Canada its 60th Anniversary (1952-2012), we thawt we'd offer one of it's articles about Health and Safety in the Workplace.  This unsigned piece itself was cobbled together from Mayo Clinic and Canadian National Institute for the Blind.  This clear and succinct material on preventing or responding quickly to eye-damage was put toegther by Rob Cleveland of CLAC Alberta, from the best sources.

— Albert Gedraitis

In the Blink of an Eye

DATE: January 02, 2012
Half blind, eyes burning, Dave rushes to the eyewash station only to find that the operating valve is broken and no water will come out.

Frantic, he runs to the bathroom to flush out the caustic chemical that had splashed up in his eyes in a freak accident. By the time he gets there and flushes out his eyes, it’s too late. Dave will have permanent vision loss. He will not work another day at the job that’s been his career for the last twenty years. He will never drive again. He will never play hockey with his son again. His life will never be the same.

According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), “every day, 200 Canadian workers sustain eye injuries on the job, often resulting in lost time and, in some cases, either temporary or permanent vision loss.” That translates into more than 73,000 eye injuries every year.

These tragic numbers can be reduced. By taking proper precautions, employers and employees can prevent eye injuries—and prevent the possibility of devastating, permanent change to a worker’s life.

Eye injuries are usually the result of flying objects, unsafe handling of tools, chemical splashes, and objects sticking out of walls or hanging from ceilings. Ninety percent of these injuries are preventable through engineering controls and wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE). By law, much of the onus falls on employers to eliminate hazards where possible and ensure that employees have access to proper PPE, training, and eyewash stations where required.

While Dave’s story is fictional, it is based on an American survey that found that many eyewash stations are not properly installed or maintained—having pieces broken, missing, or clogged—rendering them useless in the case of an emergency.

By failing to take the time and money to keep eyewash stations in working order, companies across the continent are not only disobeying the law, but are putting their employees at risk of suffering a life-altering injury.

While the company in this incident failed to take the necessary precautions to protect its employees, workers also need to take responsibility for their eye safety. What can you do?
  1. Eliminate or reduce workplace hazards by securing and flagging hanging or protruding objects or changing processes.
  2. When hazards can’t be eliminated, wear proper eye protection. Many workers don’t. Sometimes it gets in the way, feels uncomfortable, or looks unattractive. And workers may not know which eye protection to wear in a given situation. Find out which eye protection will best protect you in your work, and then make sure you get the size and style that fits you.
  3. When an injury does occur, treat it immediately. “The first ten to fifteen seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance, especially a corrosive substance, are critical,” according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. “Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury.”
  4. Report all eye injuries to your employer or safety manager—no matter how minor. While it may not seem like a big deal at the time, that minor injury may come back to haunt you later. Not only that, but by reporting the injury, your employer will be able to take steps to address potentially unsafe work practices or conditions and prevent others from being injured in the future.
Eye safety is critical to a long and productive career no matter what job you’re doing. In 2005 alone, the British Columbia Association of Optometrists reported that the province witnessed 1,990 insurance claims from multiple industries resulting in 18,910 work days lost and more than $6.4 million paid out in claims.
While eye injuries cost governments and employers millions of dollars each year, your eyesight is priceless. Don’t take it for granted. Protect your eyes before it’s too late, before your life changes forever in the blink of an eye.
By Rob Cleveland, Alberta representative, CLAC

What to Wear?  Eyewear is designed to protect against three main hazards: impact, radiation, and splashes.
  • Match the eyewear to the hazard. There are seven main types of eye protection: glasses, goggles, shields, welding helmets, hoods, welding hand shields, and respirator face pieces. Within the different types are different categories that tell you if the eyewear protects against impact, radiation, or chemical splashes. Make sure you pick the right protection.
  • Ensure your eyewear has been approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  • Ensure your eye protection fits properly, covers your eyes properly, and is not too snug or too loose.
  •  If your eyewear is scratched or damaged, replace it.
Source: Infrastructure Health and Safety  Association

What to Do? Chemical splash
  •  DO: flood the eye immediately with water, using your fingers to keep the eye open as wide as possible. Put your eye under a water source for at least fifteen minutes, rolling the eyeball as much as possible. After flooding the eye, seek medical help. 
  •  DO NOT: bandage the eye or cover it with an eye cup.

Foreign object embedded in eye
  • DO: seek medical help immediately.
  • DO NOT: rub the eye or try to remove the object.

Speck in eye
  •  DO: wash your hands and try lifting the upper eyelid down over the lower lid and blink to get rid of the speck. Try to wash it out with tears or water. If it will not come out, keep your eye closed, bandage it lightly, and seek medical attention.
  • DO NOT: rub the eye.

Blow to the eye
  • DO: apply a cold compress for about fifteen minutes, without putting pressure on the eye. Seek medical help if you experience blurred vision, pain, or discolouration (black eye).
Cuts and punctures to the eye or eyelid
  •  DO: cover the eye with a rigid shield (such as the bottom half of a paper cup) without applying pressure. See a doctor immediately.
  •  DO NOT: wash the eye or try to remove an object embedded in the eye.
Sources: CNIB and Mayo Clinic

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