While working in the motor pool one day at Fort Hood, Texas, I heard people yelling and running toward the gate. The buzz of activity got me curious, so I went to see what was happening. I couldn’t tell what was going on when I got to the gate, but I later found out a sergeant in my company had burned his eyes. Apparently he’d been working on a HMMWV battery when it exploded, splashing acid into his face. After this incident, we were all briefed on the importance of wearing our personal protective equipment.
As it turned out, the sergeant was all right and his eyes weren’t damaged permanently. He did say, however, it burned like nothing he had ever experienced. I took this in, but I figured it would never happen to me. Boy, was I wrong!
Six years later, while stationed at Fort Drum, New York, I was working on my car battery. Although I always wore PPE to protect my eyes and ears when I mowed the lawn or worked with power tools, it never crossed my mind to wear it while working on my car. No loud noises, no big deal. By that point, I’d also forgotten about the incident at Fort Hood.
As I stood in my driveway and tried to pry off the battery cap, it suddenly broke free. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to turn my head. I had a déjà vu moment as I felt my eyes burning like you wouldn’t believe! Yep, I’d gotten battery acid in my eye just like that sergeant did a few years earlier.
I couldn’t see, so I felt my way through the garage and stumbled into the house. My wife told me to flush my eye for 15 to 20 minutes, which was awful. We then went to the doctor’s office, where they put dye in my eye and used a black light to check for injuries. I was lucky — my eye wasn’t scratched. The doctor said flushing it right away had been a good thing and probably helped prevent a more serious injury.
I couldn’t believe this accident happened to me. I consider myself fortunate that it only resulted in a scary lesson learned and not permanent damage to my eye. I now make it a point to wear eye protection whenever I work on my vehicle. The funny part of this story is I was getting my car ready for the drive to Fort Rucker, Alabama, to take the Aviation Safety Officer Course!
From now on, whether at work or home, eye protection is another necessary tool I’ll use to complete the job safely. You should wear it too. What do you have to lose — other than your vision?
Protecting Your Eyes
There really is much to be said about protecting your eyes and you’d be foolish not to do so at all times. While the original eye protection devices were somewhat limited, today there are styles for every type of exposure. Many tasks require that workers wear eye protection, including, but not limited to:
• Chipping, sledging and hammering metal, stone or concrete
• Use of manual, pneumatic and power impact tools
• Caulking, brushing and grinding
• Drilling, scaling and scraping
• Babbitting, soldering and casting hot metals
• Handling acids, caustics and creosoted materials
• Gas welding, cutting and brazing
• Drilling overhead
• Working in excessively dusty environments
• Electric arc welding and cutting and other operations that expose the eyes to flying particles, dust, hot liquids, molten substances, gases, fumes and liquids
Some people just don’t like to wear safety glasses and goggles. One complaint is goggles tend to fog up. Fogging happens when sweat vaporizes and coats the inside of the lens. If you have this problem with goggles and glasses, wear a handkerchief or sweatband around your forehead to keep perspiration out.
Another complaint is eye protection devices are uncomfortable, but usually this is because the eye protection device does not fit properly. Make sure you have the device properly adjusted for the correct fit or simply get another that fits better. You can see a lot better out of a properly fitted eye protection device that you can out of a glass eye.
Did You Know?
Because more eye injuries occur in and around the home, Prevent Blindness America has declared October as Home Eye Safety Awareness Month to help educate the public on steps that can be taken to avoid painful and costly injuries. For more information home eye safety, visit PreventBlindness.org/eye-safety-home