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Eye safety is important on every EMS response

Eye protection is essential PPE for EMS providers to protect against disabling eye injury

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
  • Goggles
  • 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 the 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 or wildland fire.
  3. Use of proper protective eyewear: On every patient, contact EMS providers should have protective eyewear easily available. My ANZI Z87 compliant eyeglasses are on a lanyard around my neck so they are always available.

This article, originally published May 26, 2009, has been updated.

Learn more about workplace eye safety and find training resources from the NIOSH Eye Safety Tool Box Talk – Instructor’s Guide.

This article, originally published DATE, has been updated
Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.