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Do not be blinded by bad habits

6 September 2016

Do not be blinded by bad habits

Business owners urged to promote eye safety in the work place

Our eyes are without a doubt one of our most precious assets. They allow us to perform valuable tasks like driving and reading and to observe precious moments with family and friends. However, the importance of eye safety, especially in the workplace, is often overlooked and as a result many South Africans sustain life altering eye injuries every year.

September sees the start of Eye Safety Awareness Month and Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) would like to urge employers and employees to emphasise and prioritise eye safety in the workplace.

“Eye injuries in the workplace can largely be prevented with the use of proper equipment and safety regulations,” says Dr Deodat Kritzinger, General Manager: Medical of RMA. “Even though eye safety regulations are in place at many companies, the message needs to be constantly reinforced to make sure that it is implemented. ”

“Companies should make sure that safety measures are up to date and in place and that they are presented in such a way that the employee is able to take responsibility and ownership of these safety measures so that they can protect themselves,” adds Dr Kritzinger.

“Furthermore, too many companies and employees have fallen into bad habits and do not periodically update and promote eye safety regulations in the workplace,” he adds.

Employees within industrial companies are generally more at risk as they are exposed to environments, equipment and machinery that, without proper safety regulations and practises, can cause a variety of injuries.

“In terms of our labour laws, the responsibility lies with business owners and managers to make sure that employees are fully trained to operate any equipment and machinery. Employees should furthermore be equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment so that they can safely and effectively perform their daily tasks,“ notes Dr Kritzinger.

Emergency protocols

He says emergency mock drills must be held frequently to test the effectiveness of the protocols and the employees’ ability to act in line with the procedures as set out.

“Eye injuries should have a customised emergency protocol, as they are usually unique in nature,” Dr Kritzinger explains. He provides the following basic first aid tips:

  • If eyes are exposed to harmful chemicals, do not rub them. Rinse the eye with plenty of clear water immediately and call for medical assistance. Do not cover or bandage the eye.
  • In the event of a blow to the eye, apply a cold compress but do not add pressure to the eye or the surrounding area. Pain medication may be taken to alleviate pain, however if there is bleeding, prolonged pain, vision impairment or any form of discomfort when moving the eye seek immediate medical attention.
  • Refrain from rubbing if a foreign particle enters the eye. If the particle is small enough it can be removed by rinsing the eye with clear water. If not, gently cover the eye with a bandage and seek immediate medical assistance.

Maintenance of equipment

Faulty or out dated machinery is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. All machinery needs continuous maintenance to ensure safe and productive use. It is vital that companies only use appropriately qualified individuals to service and repair machinery. Please remember that every model, make and type of equipment requires its own specialist.

“Some companies try to save money by using unregistered maintenance personnel to service and repair machinery. This may lead to faulty repairs that can result in injuries,” says Dr Kritzinger.  “Make sure that all your machinery is up to code and safe to be used by your employees.”

Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE), is a collective name for a variety of protective items that includes overalls, suits, goggles, gloves and masks. Every type of equipment, machinery and task requires its own kind of PPE. For example, welding helmets protect the eyes against the harmful light emitted by a welding torch, whereas eye goggles can prevent projectile or foreign objects from entering the eye.

Although both the above-mentioned items protect the eyes, each one has a specialised function. For example, eye goggles cannot protect the eyes against welding light and therefore should not be used as such. “A mistake that many companies make is to use one type of eye protection across the board for a variety of tasks. This is not a safe practise,” cautions Dr Kritzinger.

Another important aspect of PPE is maintenance. As with machinery and equipment it requires regular maintenance and updating. Many companies make use of PPE that is damaged or out-dated, thereby rendering it useless.

RMA places great emphasis on the importance of safety in the workplace and therefore fully supports Eye Safety Awareness Month. “We wish to encourage employers throughout South Africa to prioritise the safety of employees across all industries,” concludes Dr Kritzinger

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