Vision Conservation and Readiness

 Medical Services and First Aid for Eye Injuries

Last Updated: October 29, 2019
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OSHA regulations  make it a requirement that employees be given a safe and healthy workplace that is reasonably free of occupational hazards.  However, even with utilization of engineering controls, administrative controls and use of PPE, accidents still can happens.   Because of this, employers are required to provide medical and first aid personnel and supplies commensurate with the hazards of the workplace.  First aid is defined as the one-time, short term medical attention that is usually provided immediately after an injury occurs and at or near the location where the injury occurred.   The details of a workplace medical and first aid program are dependent on the circumstances of each workplace and employer.

Every site within DoD should have readily available medical personnel for advice and consultation.  However, what is considered "near proximity" is open to debate and is dependent on the hazards involved and the time required for initiation of first aid to prevent additional injury to the worker.  The first aid supplies required are those that are appropriate to respond to the specific incidents at their workplace by the personnel who have been trained to respond therefore they should be involved in the decision on what supplies are necessary at each site.   OSHA does provide additional information on First Aid which can be found at First Aid Kits External Link.  The drenching and flushing facilities required will be addressed in greater detail in a separate article titled:  

Medical Services and First Aid for Eye Injuries - Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment

This page will primarily emphasize the requirements for basic first aid for ocular injuries and the surrounding area and is not intended to provide information for medical professionals.  It is recommended that, in most cases, the worker should obtain professional medical care as soon as possible. 

Finally, while there is no requirement, much of the same recommendations apply at home.  While no one is advocating that all homes be required to be equipped with eyewash stations, the recommendation to irrigate all chemical should still be applicable.

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The most important thing is to do all that is possible to prevent the injuries in the first place.  Recommended considerations for reducing the risks include identification of the potential eye hazards at the site and ensure that a proper hazard assessment has taken place.  Make certain that:

  • All of the tools being utilized are working properly;l
  • All safety features are in place and properly working;
  • Workers are properly trained on use of the equipment, tools and safety protocols;
  • All administrative, and engineering tools are in place and being followed by all personnel; and 
  • Remember to consider potential risks from potential hazards from nearby machinery, workers and from falling objects or particles.

It is also important to make certain that workers are using the correct eye protection for the task,

  • That the workers understand how and when to use the eye protection;
  • That the eye protection being used is in good condition;
  • That it fits properly so that the workers wear them, and
    • That they are kept clean.
    • That the workers try to clean off or vacuum dust and debris from their hair and face before removing their protective eyewear.
    • That they know not to rub their eyes especially if they feel something in their eye and especially if their hands or clothing are dirty.

The OSHA requirements are specifically for General Industry which can be found at 1910 Subpart K Medical and First Aid External Link are:

  • The employer needs to ensure that medical personnel are readily available for advice and consultation on matters of plant health and have written emergency protocols in place.
  • In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity, which is usually defined as being within 3 to 4 minutes of the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid and that adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available.
  • Emergency phone numbers need to be placed in conspicuous places near telephones.
  • Prearranged ambulance services need to be readily available (For most in DoD, that will be from the local Fire Department or MTF).
Appendix A to § 1910.151, which is non-mandatory, discusses the adequate first-aid supplies.  In short, the first-aid kits should meet the needs for the specific workplace and make certain the first aid kit has the necessary supplies for the worksite.  For additional information,  ANSI Z308.1-2015, Minimum Requirements for Workplace First Aid Kits External Link  is a performance-based standard that establishes the minimum performance ability for first aid kits used at worksites. The standard specifies products that must be contained in any workplace first aid kit in order to address injuries that are most likely to occur, namely major and minor wounds, minor burns and eye injuries.  ISEA also notes that Z308.1 should be viewed mainly as a starting point for an organization’s first aid kit since many workplaces have job-specific risks that should be addressed on a case-by-case basis with the addition of products necessary to meet those unique needs.   Workplace first aid kits should be complemented by other items that have been identified during a risk assessment, if necessary. Where there are unusual hazards that are specific to a particular workplace environment, workplace first aid kits should be supplemented with additional, appropriate components. Tablets or medicines should not usually be included in first aid kits.  Minimum requirements specific to eye injuries include an eye covering with means of attachment and an eye wash.  

First Aid for Eye Injuries in the Workplace

Even when all of the preventive measures are in place, accidents still occur and, in some instances, the need for initial care can be the difference in savings a worker's sight.  Still, it is also important that those providing initial first aid do not make the situation worse.  For all eye injuries, it is important that the worker or any one providing aid:

  • Does not touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
  • Do not try to remove anything stuck in the eye or the surrounding area.
  • Do not apply any ointment or medication to the eye.
  • Seek additional care as soon as reasonably possible.

If the worker feels something small such as a dust particle or small debris in their eye:

  • Again, to not touch or rub the affected eye.
  • Flush the eye with lots of water to see if you can wash out the irritant.

For any obvious or potential cuts, punctures or foreign objects found in the eye:

  • Do not try to remove the foreign object or put pressure on the area.
  • If it is felt that it is one of these, do not even attempt to wash out the affected eye.
  • Gently place a covering over the affected eye.  Even the bottom of a paper cup taped to the surround area can serve as a shield.
  • Keep the worker as calm as possible until they can obtain definitive care.

For any chemical splash as well as any other liquid substances:

  • Immediately flush the eye with water making certain that the eye is opened as wide as possible.  Keep flushing the eye for at least 15 minutes even on the way to getting medical assistance.
  • If there is a contact lens in the eye, begin flushing with the contact lens in place.  Be aware that flushing may wash out the lens.
  • Keep the worker as calm as possible until they can obtain definitive care.
  • For additional information on the requirements, types and testing requirements for eyewash stations, go to the article Medical Services and First Aid for Eye Injuries - Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment.

For any types of blows to the eye:

  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the area without applying any pressure.
  • If the pain continues, if there is symptoms of reduced vision, or any blood or discoloration is evident in the eye, seek immediate medical attention.

Finally, remember that the personnel in Safety needs to be notified whenever an incident occurs where the worker seeks any care beyond initial first aid so that they can look into the situation.  This is not a punitive requirement.  This is the required procedure so that the situation proceeding the injury can be investigated to it can be determined if there are any possible remedies for preventing the same type of injury from occurring in the future.

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