March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month.
Sight is one of your critical five senses that needs to be protected at all times while on the job since if you were to lose it, chances are you may never get it back again. Employees that work in areas where there is a continuous amount of dust, particles or other debris in the air should wear at least safety glasses or goggles as part of their regular PPE.
For those of us who wear prescription glasses, they can be made to work like the above just make sure they are shatterproof lenses and have side shields to fully protect your eyes.
When there is the possibility of large size flying fragments or sparks or chemicals are poured and can splash, workers should be fitted for a face shield.
There should also be an eyewash station located in the area you work where the conditions mentioned above exist especially when chemicals or other caustic materials are handled. The eyewash station and/or shower should be only steps away from your workstation.
In the event, something does get into your eyes don’t rub them with your hands but immediately go to the eyewash station and begin flushing your eyes. Get as much water in them as possible even hold your eyelids open with your fingers to accomplish and then continue flushing for a good 15 minutes even if the pain stops or subsides before that time elapses. Meanwhile, while you’re flushing your eyes have a fellow worker contact the supervisor and/or the emergency response team if your company has one, so you can receive further treatment for your eyes whether on or off-site. This is not a time to be a hero. Please also add the eyewash station to your monthly walk around and make sure it is always fully operational.
The use of PPE (personal protective equipment) whether to protect your eyes, hearing or your body is extremely important and there is NO good excuse not to use PPE on a regular basis. There are several ways to make sure this point gets across to all workers on the job.
Training: Safety training is an important tool to combat complacency with wearing protective gear as it helps to keep safety in their minds and thoughts continually. Don’t skip or skimp on safety meetings, whatever your company policy or practice. You can make the training more interesting by involving staff in presentations or have a guest speaker from your insurance company, safety professional or another department head. You can also keep reinforcing safety with tailgate meetings that are are 5-10 minutes in length and can be used to address what you may have recently observed in the warehouse.
If the practice on safety at your company is lax and no one cares if you hold safety meetings or not, that is even more of a reason to have them. Document the meetings by writing a short description of what was covered and attach it to the sign-in sheet used to document who attended the meeting. Then keep them in a safe place since you’ll never know if or when you’ll need them down the road. No matter how lax the company is you should never stop your vigilance on safety. Preventing an injury is so much easier and rewarding to deal with than the regrets and “should haves” if someone was to be injured or worse. Don’t ever let anyone deter you from keeping a safe working environment.
Discipline: No one likes to hear this word but it’s another line of defense as well. If you don’t enforce the PPE company rules and an employee gets injured, you can be sued as well as the company. Discipline doesn’t have to be brutal either. If I came across an employee at the beginning of the shift not properly wearing their eye protective gear, I would remind them, “Those are eye protectors, not forehead protectors”. You don’t always know their day started, maybe they ran into an unexpected traffic jam, or they’re worried about the rumors of a slow down at the plant or they’re just worried about the Giants maintaining the one-game lead over the Dodgers in the standings. If it continues just jot it down somewhere as to the time of day and where you saw them without their PPE after a stern reminder and if necessary give a verbal or written warning. Don’t ever be quiet about safety. Looking the other way or being a nice guy does NOT gain you points. Do you think for one minute the injured employee’s attorney is going to go easy on you in a courtroom for not making his client wear their PPE before the accident?
Protect your employees from injury and protect yourself from liability and then no one will ever have to say they are sorry.
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