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Important. Keep an eye on safety. Provision and use of eye protection

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Important. Keep an eye on safety. Provision and use of eye protection

Posted by at July 25. 2013

Message from the University Safety Office:

The School and wider University is having to promote the selection, provision and use of protective eyewear.

Monitoring of eye related accidents across the University showed that there had been at least 32 accidents involving chemical splashes to the eyes over the last 2 years. 5 were RIDDOR reportable because they were students that had to attend hospital. None of the incidents resulted in serious eye injuries.

Of particular concern (although perhaps not surprising) is that the majority of these cases were from biological departments/institutes. This is strongly indicative of both the culture and the attitude that biological labs have towards safe use of chemicals, compared with, for example, a chemistry lab where eye protection is typically worn by default. Several of these incidents involved disinfectants into the eyes when cleaning facilities after work. Another popular one – chemicals being filtered using syringes.

Following lengthy discussions, the University’s Sub Committee for Chemical Safety, and the University Consultative Committee for Safety escalated this to the University Health and Safety Executive Committee (HSEC).

HSEC DECISION – the Committee decide that, subject to an appropriate risk assessment, the wearing of eye protection would be compulsory for all workers handling chemicals that are hazardous to health as defined by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). It further directed that training courses should high-light this requirement.

What this means for SBS

Risk assessments should have identified those procedures where hazardous substance are handled and which could present a risk to the eyes/face. Where this is the case, these workers (and others that may be affected by these activities) MUST have access to appropriate Personal Eye / face Protection.

I am now required to ask Departments/Institutes to review your local arrangements and, importantly, to take steps to raise the profile of eye protection. And this is not just for work involving chemicals – there are a multitude of other hazards that could present a risk to the eyes e.g. biohazards, cryogens, compressed gases, dusts, flying objects etc. Raising awareness may include local training, particular emphasis at induction, and highlighting the importance of PPE during inspections and on the lab walk around. Get everyone involved! Appropriate goggle/spec boxes and face shields need to be strategically located around buildings and there must be facilities for keeping them clean and in good condition. PI’s/Supervisors/lab  management etc should help to promote this, and importantly lead by example.

No one type of safety spec will fit all so it may be necessary to find alternative makes/models for people. Are workers generally happy with what is currently available? Models with adjustable tilt/length of arms are often the better option as they seem to fit more people. Don’t dismiss the idea of what a safety spec looks like either. If they are of a modern style, and comfortable  then people will be more inclined to wear them. And importantly they must fit! Perhaps consider inviting some companies like Bolle, UVEX, Arco etc in to do an exhibition and use it as an opportunity to promote it as part of an in-house eye safety week. The Safety Office and others are looking at ways of promoting eye safety across the wider University.   

The need for prescription safety specs should really only be necessary where people are handling hazardous chemicals (or other hazards) for continuous periods and on a regular basis, and where ‘overspecs’ become impracticable. Local management will have to make a judgement on this based on the risk assessment for the work, and take it on a case by case basis. The cost of safety glasses / goggles / face shields has to be met by the group/department as most appropriate. Obviously normal eyewear is not a substitute for eye protection.  

Don’t lose sight of safety! Let’s work together at keeping these incidents down.

For more info on eye protection please see here:

Thanks for your help with this

Mark Elsdon
Biological Sciences Safety Officer

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