Despite every precaution to prevent them occurring, accidents happen. The rapid pace of certain industries where risk is an inherent part of the everyday means that workers in roles based in factories; on mining and building sites; in the health, defence, energy and petrochemical industries; and first responders to emergencies are likely to encounter the unexpected in the course of their jobs.
This does not mean, of course, that the harm accidents can cause should not be addressed. In fact, it is the responsibility of managers to ensure that appropriate plans and equipment are in place to mitigate foreseeable harms to their workforce.
Because the nature of accidents in these industries can often be both sudden and critical, appropriate responses need to be delivered rapidly, reliably, and in strict compliance with safety regulations in order for them to be effective.
FAST FACTS: Eye Health in the Workplace
• Up to 50,000 eye injuries occur per year – that’s seven out of every 1000 workers!
• 60% of eye injuries in Australia occur in the construction, mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries
• These injuries cost around $60 million per year and result in about 500 hospital admissions per year
• The majority of workplace eye injuries are caused by foreign objects entering the eye, such as metal fragments or other lightweight foreign bodies.
• Males are more susceptible to eye injury. Nearly 87% of all compensation claims for eye injuries from 1999-2005 involved males
• During this period, the average time spent absent from work after an eye injury was 1.6 weeks to 2 weeks.
Sources: ComCare; SafeWork Australia; Safe to Work
Eye on Compliance
Some specialists can be unaware of their responsibilities to provide emergency shower and eyewash systems as initial first aid treatment for many hazardous contaminants as part of WHS risk assessments, the provision of which, is covered by Australian Standard AS4775-2007.
Australian Standard AS4775-2007 was prepared in response to requests from industry, as well as manufacturers and suppliers, who demanded a clear set of guidelines to minimum expectations in regards to performance and user requirements for emergency showers and eyewashes.
It is important to remember that emergency equipment is only a part of a system and the performance of this equipment is dependent on such conditions as correct installation, minimum water flow rates and supply pressure as specified by AS4775-2007.
or this reason, it is strongly recommended that all new sites, renovations or existing facilities undergo an WHS audit, to identify any areas where there are deficiencies such as in the hydraulic system which can prevent emergency equipment operating to the minimum requirements of the Standard.
Emergency eyewash and eye/face washes can be classified as primary equipment if they are able to operate, once activated, continuously without hands being required for a minimum of 15 minutes and at the minimum flow rates and spray patterns as dictated by the Standard, otherwise they are classified as supplemental [see “Primary vs Supplemental Eyewash^ box].
Supplemental equipment such as personal eyewash can play an important part in the treatment of an eye injury as they allow for an immediate response