Eye Safety in the Pharmaceutical World

Published: March 3, 2021

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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that each day 2,000 people in the U.S. sustain an eye injury at work that requires treatment. Most of the injuries are caused by small particles striking the eye, such as dust or wood chips. Chemicals account for 7-10% of eye injuries. While less common, a chemical burn to the eye can be very serious, and in some cases lead to blindness. In many pharmaceutical companies, lab technicians, pharmacists, scientists, and engineers work in laboratories with a wide range of chemicals, some of which could be harmful to the eye. Chemicals can contact the eye in the form of splash, mists, vapors, or fumes. OSHA reports that many chemical eye injuries occur when the wrong type of eye protection is used. For example, goggles that do not fit correctly can allow chemicals to enter from underneath or around the goggle itself. Goggles should provide a protective seal around the eyes. 

The growing market in personal protective equipment, including eye gear, is resulting in new options in goggles, such as anti-fog functionality, anti-slip nose bridges, and goggles that fit safely and comfortably over prescription eyeglasses.

OSHA requires work area eye flushing stations in facilities where a person could be exposed to injurious corrosive materials. The standards for the eye flushing stations are established by the American National Standards Institute.

Proper training on the use of the eye flushing station is vital. One training method sometimes used is blindfolding an employee and having him/her walk to the station from the hazard, a realistic imitation of what would happen if the employee’s eyes were closed due to pain.

Among other requirements, the stations must be within a 10-second walk (about 55 feet) along a clear path from the hazard. They need to be clearly marked, well-lit, and have a hands-free valve to operate. Flushing fluid must be tepid (60-100 degrees). While tap water is sometimes used, the standards recommend that stations use a buffered pH-balanced saline solution.