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Protective Eyewear By RON MOORE
SUBJECT: Protective Eyewear
TOPIC: Eye protection for rescue personnel
OBJECTIVE: Rescue personnel will be able to explain the requirements for eye protection for extrication personnel, identify the various types of eye protection available, and select eye protection appropriate for their assignment.
TASK: Given a rescue simulation, the participant will be able to properly select and don eye protection appropriate for their rescue assignment
If your job at a vehicle rescue scene exposes you to hazards from flying objects, pressurized fluids, broken glass, bodily fluids, dust or particles, you should be using some form of eye protection. If vehicle rescue is something you do as part of your duties, then your department should be providing approved eye protection for you. Most importantly, your officer or supervisor should be enforcing your department's standard operating procedure (SOP) requiring use of protective eyewear at vehicle-rescue incident scenes.
As medical, rescue and extrication personnel, we must consider our potential for eye injury as being similar to that of a worker in a factory, at a construction site or within an industrial setting. Occupational injury reports collected industry-wide show that the most common eye injuries to workers include particles or slivers embedded in the eye, injury from chemical splash or burn, eyeball lacerations, facial contusion and black eye, and blood-borne pathogen exposure from blood, bodily fluids or human remains. All of these injury potentials are relevant to members of the fire service as well.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) provide us with standards for eye protection in order to minimize the number of occupational eye injuries each year. Compliance with these standards is crucial because it minimizes the chances of a responder being injured in the first place. Donning eye protection also reduces the liability exposure of every fire department officer supervising workers where eye protection is needed. If they get hurt and it turns out that you let them work without proper eye protection, then you as an officer or supervisor aren't doing your job. Here's why.
We must all agree that personnel involved in a vehicle-rescue incident, especially one with serious injuries and entrapment, are vulnerable to "flying objects" whether they are solid items or sprayed fluids that can strike the responder in the face or eyes.
Section 5-10.1 of NFPA 1500 Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, 1997 edition, states that appropriate primary eye protection must be provided and used by members exposed to a specific hazard such as found at a vehicle-rescue scene. Both OSHA and the NFPA 1500 standard reference ANSI Z87.1 as the benchmark standard for occupational eye and face protection. ANSI is the acronym for the American National Standards Institute, an organization that administers the private-sector voluntary standards system in the United States.
The most recent update of this standard, ANSI Z87.1-2003, became effective in August 2003. ANSI Z87.1-2003, officially called the "American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye Protective Devices," sets forth requirements for the design, construction, testing and use of eye protection devices, including standards for impact and penetration resistance.
ANSI Z87.1 establishes two levels of impact protection and also defines primary and secondary eye protection. Rescue personnel must know how to recognize high-impact eyewear and the difference between primary and secondary protection.