Irreversible Eye Damage

“Causes irreversible eye damage. Harmful if absorbed through skin. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum or using tobacco. Remove and wash contaminated clothing before reuse”

(from Super Sani-Cloth Germicidal Disposable Wipes; MSDS 0020)

The other day my better half – who works as a Registered Nurse in a well-respected area hospital – told me about a product that they were now using at her workplace to clean beds after patients had been moved elsewhere. She took it upon herself to seek out the MSDS for these wipes and she was shocked to read the words “causes irreversible eye damage” under the hazards identification section.

Now, I have to admit that I’m a bit biased as I say this, but my wife is one of the smartest and most dedicated medical professionals that I know – and her focus on anything related to safety is certainly elevated due to the line of work that I am in. Just the same, how many of us actively seek out and read the MSDS for the products we use on the job? How many of us would willingly use a product at work where the first hazard listed was “causes irreversible eye damage”!!

Yes, she and her co-workers were careful to use protective gloves when handling the wipes, however the idea of wearing safety glasses was never brought to their attention. Who would have thought that wearing eye protection was ever an issue when using wipes to clean a bed?

About the same time she told me about these wipes I was watching a television show on a cable channel where the subject focused on automotive restoration and repair (yes, I am a car geek through-and-through). Anyway, on this show the host was sharing one of his ‘secrets’ about how he cleans old greasy, grimy parts like grills that are used on the front end of vintage vehicles. The secret-sauce that was being shared was none other than brake fluid, and frankly I have no doubt that it did (does) the job that he was professing. Just the same, I didn’t see him using any PPE as he liberally brushed the brake fluid over the part as it lay in a shallow tray.

By now, you can hopefully pick up on where I am going with this. In my experience, eye injuries are among the most common (if not the #1) injury sustained in the auto repair and service industries. Oftentimes the injury occurs doing something that appears relatively harmless – like bleeding a brake system. Please, please, please wear your PPE at all times on the shop floor – in particular your safety glasses. Ask anyone who has ever had an eye injury or any kind of loss of vision; it can be devastating and life-altering.

As Sgt. Esterhaus on the old TV show ‘Hill Street Blues’ used to always say; “Let’s be careful out there…”

Charlie Ayers

Written by CCAR