Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Its All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye"

The headline on a website titled INJURY SETTLEMENT GUIDE, a resource for individuals seeking legal  advice on personal injury cases, was “Eye injury due to lack of safety gear while working at a car wash” Could this be inspired by an incident that happened at your wash?

In short, the article is from a car wash employee claiming she was asked to clean the walls in a car wash tunnel, some of the chemical used to wash the walls got in her eye and she lost partial vision. Her version of the event was that this task was assigned to her after being on the job less than a few months without training, or proper safety equipment. Her legal question was to find out if she had a remedy other than workers compensation available to compensate her for her injuries. In other words, can she sue the car wash owner?
As I visit washes across the country, one of the most common observations I make is related to poor practices in the supply and use of eye protection. This is not only disturbing but a clear violation of OSHA.  Any employee that is exposed to chemicals that are categorized as a hazard falls under the standard 29 CFR 1910.133-eye and face protection.
The following are some ideas that may assist your facility with some criteria to help design a plan to ensure employees have the proper eye protection: 
  1. Use goggles that guard against splashing. This means they should have continuous shielding around all edges to prevent chemicals from entering from above, below and from either side. Open ended eyewear is not acceptable when working with chemicals.
  2. Be sure that the splash goggles are not stored with other eye protection. This will prevent an employee from choosing the wrong set of glasses. 
  3.  Regularly inspect the condition of the approved eyewear. They are exposed to tough conditions daily and will most likely need constant attention. It is a good idea to keep a log with the date checked and also when they were last purchased. Also, be sure that damaged glasses are thrown away immediately. The following are a few items to look for during the inspection process:
    • Test the elastic to be sure it has not stretched out to a point where the glasses no longer stay tight.
    •  Look for scratches on the lenses that make it uncomfortable to see out of.
    •   Be sure the plastic edges are not worn to a point where the liquid can leak into the glasses.
    • Be sure the glasses are clean. Employees will not use equipment that appears dirty.
  4. Find a safe place to store eye protection close to the hazard where they are visible. If they are in a cabinet, be sure to use signage to identify where they are stored.
  5. The following are some tips on what to train all employees regarding eyewear protection:
    • Review hazards relating to all chemicals on the property 
    • Explain the various jobs associated with these chemicals, i.e. transfer, wall cleaning 
    • Review who can and who can’t work with chemicals 
    • Be sure to point out the most dangerous chemicals along with the potential risks 
    • Review where the eyewear protection will be stored 
    • Assign a least two individuals who will be responsible for the eyewear program 
    • Make it a disciplinary offense to be found working with chemicals without the proper eye protection. This needs to be a rule that is enforced to be sure that all employees are held accountable.
Losing the use of your eyes would be a tragic event that none of us in the industry want to happen. Especially, when there are easy solutions to prevent this. Once it is done, there is no turning back. Unless management at the wash accepts responsibility for devising a plan to prevent eye injuries, it will happen.

If your current safety manual does not include some of the items outlined in this blog, it is imperative that you begin the process necessary to add this topic. Hopefully, you have a staff available and my suggestion is to assign this to a committee with a specific completion date. Keep in mind that your insurance and chemical representatives can be a valuable resource when you establish your eyewear protection plan.

Keep your employees safe and start today!