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OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor

Process: Hot Work

 

Hazard: Eye Injuries

For shipyard workers engaged in hot work, eye injuries are among the most common type of injury experienced. Although most are not serious, the devastating potential for losing sight in one or both eyes exists. Eye injury prevention is therefore one of the most important elements in any shipyard safety program.

The processes in shipbuilding and repair generate a great deal of dust, dirt, and metal particulates. These materials are frequently airborne as a result of the processes producing them, air movement, and activity. Airborne debris, including the hot sparks and slag generated by hot work is the most frequent source of eye injuries in shipyards. When these materials get into an eye it is uncomfortable and often very painful. The natural tendency to rub the eye aggravates the problem and may cause a corneal abrasion or imbed the foreign body in the eye. Imbedded foreign bodies always require medical removal. While these foreign body injuries account for the majority of eye injuries in shipyards, most are easily preventable. Most shipyard eye injuries can be prevented by properly using personal protective equipment.

Many of the foreign body injuries to the eye reported by shipyard workers are caused by workers blowing into goggles, welding helmets, face shields, or respirators to remove dust or debris.. Providing wipes and eyeglass-cleaning stations at convenient locations throughout the shipyard has proven to be effective in significantly reducing the number of these occurrences. Eye-wash stations located throughout the shipyard provide workers the opportunity to flush foreign bodies from the eyes quickly, often preventing more severe injury. On board ship, portable eye-wash stations can be strategically placed in work areas.

In hot work, exposure to the ultraviolet rays and radiant energy in the visible light bands produced by electric arcs and gas flames can cause eye injuries. The most frequent injury, UV Keratitis, commonly called welders flash, occurs when the unprotected eye is exposed to the intense light generated from a welding arc. The intense ultraviolet light literally sunburns the surface of the eye. Although this is painful and disabling, it is temporary in most instances. Chronic exposure, however, greatly increases the risk of cataracts. Nearby workers and workers passing through an area where welding is going on sometimes experience this injury if they happen to be watching when the welder strikes their arc. Radiation in the visible light band, if too intense, can also cause eyestrain, headache and retinal damage.

Shaded filter lenses are required to protect workers from injurious light radiation. Such equipment includes goggles, face shields, welding helmets or a combination of equipment depending on the type of work being done, worker preference, and shipyard rules. Minimum filter lens requirements for protection against radiant energy in all types of hot work can be found in 29 CFR section 1915.153 of the OSHA regulations. Street sunglasses do not offer the level of protection needed and should not be used for hot work.

The labor intensive nature of shipyard work frequently requires that a number of specialized workers perform a variety of tasks within close proximity to one another. The same small space may be occupied by welders, shipfitters, carpenters etc. This circumstance has led many shipyards to require that safety glasses with side shields be worn under welding hoods and face shields. If the worker were to raise his hood or shield, his eyes would be protected from eye injury hazards that may be created by these other work activities. In many shipyards, safety glasses with side shields are a minimum requirement for every worker. The dynamic nature of shipyard work leads to constantly changing conditions that necessitate having safety glasses with side shields available for all workers at all times.

Another concern for workers doing hot work is sweating. Hot work is indeed, "hot work", using sweat bands can help in preventing eye irritation, aid in visibility, and reduce work interruptions for face mopping.

As with all personal protective equipment, fit and comfort are important considerations in selecting eye protection. Workers should be trained in fitting, adjusting, and properly caring for the equipment they use.

Making workers aware of the hazards and proper work procedures through safety briefings, posters, and other forms of communication, goes a long way in motivating workers to use personal protective equipment and work safely.

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