First Aid for Eyes

dmeu_y4256459_02_std-lang-allEvery year, thousands of people suffer from work-related eye injuries. Sometimes this damage is permanent, leading to irreversible loss of eyesight. If the eyes are exposed to a hazardous substance, the first 10-15 seconds are critical. Even if treatment is delayed for a few seconds, it could cause serious injury. Help should always be called for immediately but this first aid for eyes guidance can help treat the injured person until a first aider or paramedic arrives. When in doubt call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Legislation

If mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least a litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9%) in sealed, disposable containers should be provided. Once the seal is broken, the solutions should not be kept for reuse. Solutions should not be used beyond their expiry date.

Eyewash Saline

Eyewash is also known as saline solution and is used to rinse eyes when they become contaminated with foreign particles or substances.  By ensuring there are bottles of eye wash to hand, the injured person can flush their eyes immediately following an incident.

Eyewash bottles need to be sterile, meaning that once they are opened and used, they need to be disposed of. It is vital that eye wash solution is not used past its expiry date.

Emergency Eyewash Showers and Stations

Emergency showers and eyewash stations allow workers to flush away hazardous substances with clean, cool, continuous running water. It is highly recommended that these eyewash stations are located close to the potential hazards so that workers can access treatment as quickly as possible.

Types of Eye Injury

Some of the most common eye injuries and hazards to the eyes include:

  • Foreign objects such as eyelashes, dust and pieces of grit, wood or metal.
  • Cuts or abrasions from sharp objects such as metal or glass.
  • Impact to the eye by a hard object such as a ball.
  • Chemical fumes, splashes, mist and vapours.
  • Radiation such as UV, heat, infrared and lasers.

Foreign objects such as grit or loose eyelashes can normally be rinsed out of the eye easily. Sharp fragments such as metal or glass may cut the eye therefore the casualty should go immediately to hospital. Where chemicals are used, eyewash facilities must be readily available, either in the form of an eyewash fountain or plenty of eyewash bottles (sterile water or saline). Where it is not possible to supply clean running water, employers must provide adequate eye wash facilities. Eye injuries are serious because they can potentially damage the casualty’s vision through damage, scarring or infection.

dmeu_y4256459_03_std-lang-allWhat to Check

 It is important to identify the type of injury to the eye in order to offer the correct aid and inform the First Aider or Paramedic. The first things you should check for are:

  • Pain in the eye area.
  • Wounds or bloodshot eyes.
  • Loss of vision (total or partial).
  • Blood or fluid leaking from a wound.
  • Watering eyes or screwed up eyelids.

If any of these symptoms are present then action needs to be taken to prevent further damage.

Prevention

 Many eye injuries are preventable if appropriate safety precautions are established in the workplace. Where chemicals are used, eyewash facilities must be readily available, either in the form of an eye wash fountain or plenty of eyewash bottles (sterile water or saline).

It is important to not only provide protective eye wear where appropriate but also to display adequate signage to enforce its use. The best way to prevent eye injuries at work is to ensure your employees are well informed of any potentials risks and to ensure that health and safety training is up to date and understood.

 Chemical Burns

Chemical exposure or burns to the eyes can cause serious long-term injury if not treated immediately. The severity of the injury depends on the basic makeup of the chemical involved:

  • Acids can cause considerable discomfort, redness and burning but can often be washed out relatively easily.
  • Alkalis do not cause as much immediate eye pain as acids but cause much more serious injuries than acids. Alkali substances include oven cleaners, toilet cleaners and chalk dust.

When exposed to chemicals, your main aim must be to wash out the eye so that any harmful chemicals are diluted as soon as possible. 

  1. Ensure you wear protective gloves to prevent harming yourself.
  2. Flush the eye with water or sterile fluid for at least 15 minutes, both inside and out, while gently holding the eyelids open.
  3. Make sure not to splash onto the uninjured eye.
  4. Ask the casualty to hold a pad over the injured eye. If it will be a while before they can get medical help, hold the pad in place with a bandage.
  5. Take or send the casualty to hospital and pass on information of the chemicals to medical staff

 Flash Burns

 Corneal flash burns occur when the surface of the eye is damaged by exposure to ultra violet light either from the sun or from UV lamps or welder’s torches in the workplace.

  1. Reassure the casualty and try to keep them calm.
  2. Ask the casualty to hold a pad over each injured eye. If it will be a while before they can get medical help, hold the pad in place with a bandage.
  3. Take or send the casualty to hospital and pass on details of the injury.

Foreign Objectsdmeu_y4256459_01_std-lang-all

Most common foreign objects in the eye such as grit or dust can be rinsed with eyewash solution. Do not attempt to remove anything that can penetrate the eye as this may cause more damage.

  1. Ask the casualty to sit down and face a light source, ensure they do not rub the affected area.
  2. Gently open their eyelids with your thumbs and ask them to look right, left, up and down as you look closely at the eye.
  3. If you can see a foreign object wash it out by pouring clean water or sterile fluid over the inside corner of the eye.
  4. If this does not remove the object or the eye still hurts, send or take the casualty to hospital injury to medical staff

Wounds

Whether a cut caused by a sharp object or a knock or blow to the eye, all injuries can be potentially serious if not treated immediately. Small cuts can cause infections that lead to long term issues.

  1. Assist the casualty to lie on their back, holding their head to keep it still.
  2. Encourage them to keep both eyes still, as moving their eyes could make the problem worse.
  3. Ask the casualty to hold a pad over each injured eye. If it will be a while before they can get medical help, hold the pad in place with a bandage.
  4. Take or send the casualty to hospital and pass on details of the injury to medical staff

 

Seton have all the first aid equipment you need; take a look at the full range of eyewash and ensure your workplace is well equipped in case of an emergency.

For more information on first aid requirements we also have a useful article on “What’s in your first aid kit?”

 

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

Post A Comment

Fields marked with * are mandatory.

I have read, understood and give consent to your Privacy Policy (click here to view).