— Albert Gedraitis
In the Blink of an Eye
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?
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.
Source: Infrastructure Health and Safety Association
What to Do? Chemical splash
Foreign object embedded in eye
Speck in eye
Blow to the eye
Cuts and punctures to the eye or eyelid
Sources: CNIB and Mayo Clinic