Not Wearing Safety Glass Could Have Cost Student Her/His Sight – June 2012

What happened?

A new graduate student was washing plastic ware in a nitric acid bath. The bath contained 10% nitric acid. After removing a set of plastic ware from the acid bath, the student started to add additional items to the bath. As the student was placing items in the acid bath, nitric acid bath splashed into her/his face and entered an eye. The student was wearing a laboratory coat and protective gloves but was not wearing eye protection.

The student went immediately to the sink, turned on the DI water, and flushed the eye with DI water for approximately 2 minutes. During this flushing, the student’s contact lenses fell out. The student then notified the supervisor, who sent the student to an eyewash station to do a 15-minute rinse. After the 15-minute rinse, the student was taken to the hospital, checked out by a physician, and given anti-bacterial eye drops.

What was the cause?

Not wearing appropriate PPE. The student had received safety training about using the appropriate PPE, but was in a hurry and did not don eye protection.

What corrective actions were taken?

Departmental and EH&S staff reinforced the importance of wearing all PPE with the student. S/he is now wearing PPE at all times in the laboratory regardless of what activities are being performed.

How can we prevent incidents like this?

  • Learn what PPE is right for your work – and wear it!
  • If you’re a faculty member or PI – periodically walk through your laboratory or studio and reinforce the importance of wearing PPE with your team members.
  • Provide comfortable PPE that laboratorians will wear consistently.
  • Train and inform your laboratory personnel about the location of eyewashes and safety showers and how to operate them.
  • Reinforce techniques to limit the generation of splashes while working with chemicals.
  • Don’t work in the laboratory alone when there is a hazard present.

Resources

  1. Prudent Practices in the Laboratory, Handling and Management of Chemical Hazards, National Research Council, 2011 (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12654).