Eye Safety During Responses
By Greg Friese
Nearly 2,000 eye injuries occur every day in the United States. EMS providers are at risk of eye contamination or injury from blood and other body fluids, fine and large particulates, splashes from liquid medications and other chemicals, and other forms of blunt or penetrating trauma. According to NIOSH, even minor eye injuries can lead to lifelong vision problems.
Do you take appropriate eye protection on every call? Prevention of eye injury is simple. In many instances, prescription glasses or non-prescription sunglasses offer adequate splash protection to EMS providers. Depending on the scene size-up and your local protocols, select appropriate protective eyewear from this list:
• Safety glasses
• Prescription safety glasses
• Hybrid safety glasses
• Face shields
• Full face respirators
Employers and employees should work together to formulate an eye safety plan that includes:
1. Engineering controls: Physical barriers that prevent escape of particles in machine work areas.
2. Administrative controls: Making certain work areas off-limits if proper eyewear is not present. For example, only responders with adequate eye and respiratory protection should be working in the smoke and particulate plume downwind of a structure fire.
3. Use of proper protective eyewear: On every patient, contact EMS providers should have protective eyewear easily available. I wear my ANZI Z87 compliant eye glasses on a lanyard around my neck so they are always available.
Learn more about workplace eye safety and find training resources from the NIOSH Eye Safety Tool Box Talk – Instructor's Guide.