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Inadequate Dust Exposure Control & Clean Up Leads to Eye Injury

Inadequate Dust Exposure Control & Clean Up Leads to Eye Injury Later in the Evening


A general construction firm’s foreman was working outside on a scaffold with two of his employees removing a brick lintel, when he was exposed to dust and debris that later led to a foreign object entering his eye.  The laborers were cutting with a reciprocating saw and breaking with a pry bar. Upon breaking the final weld, the plate dropped approximately 12 inches on to bracing.  Debris containing rust, steel chips, mortar, etc., blew up into the foreman’s face.  The foreman was wearing safety glasses at the time of the exposure, but was not wearing additional protection such as a face shield or goggles.  At the time of the debris exposure, and for the rest of the workday, he did not notice any exposure to his eyes.  He did not take any precautionary steps to clean the debris from his clothing or body before leaving for home.

Later that evening the foreman noticed that his right eye felt scratchy.  In the morning his eye was swollen, watering, and sensitive to light.  He rinsed his eye, used eye drops, but it did not help.  Assuming that a foreign object from the debris exposure the day before must have somehow entered his eye later on, he reported the continued discomfort to his supervisor and safety person on the worksite.
A visit to an occupational health clinic revealed a black speck near the cornea of his right eye.  The eye was rinsed and swabbed three times without success.  The foreign body was ultimately removed with an instrument and an antibiotic prescribed.  The following day, during a scheduled revisit to the clinic, the doctor noticed a rust ring on the foreman’s eye indicating that the foreign body was a speck of metal.  Continued antibiotic treatments resulted in the eye healing completely without missing any days of work.


Factors to consider at your site and/or project include, but not limited to the following:

  • Ensure that a thorough JSA and PPE Hazard Assessment are performed for each task to identify the proper additional eye/face protection for overhead tasks that could create debris exposure to the face and eyes.
  • Assess the wind conditions for the type of work being performed to determine if debris could be blown around exposing the workers.
  • Assess the work to be done and the potential exposures to the workers.  In this case, a controlled removal of the debris that was present between the steel and the bricks should have taken place before the lintel was dropped.
  • Instruct workers to take the following preventative measures when a dust/debris exposure takes place:
    • Remove as much dust/debris from your clothing, face, hair and eye protection before removing your eye protection.
    • Seek first aid assistance to have your eyes examined for potential foreign bodies.
    • At the first sign of eye discomfort rinse the eye with a saline solution or water and seek immediate first aid assistance.  Avoid rubbing your eye.
  • Ensure that equipment or material is properly rigged to control its fall/drop before it is cut loose and removed.  This will help avoid unexpected dust/debris exposure to workers and a potential struck by injury.
Consider this example as you complete today’s work activities.
Safety Flash Action Items:
  • Date Contractor Safety Flash posted for all employees to review: _______________
  • Safety Talk meeting date: _______________
  • Full employee attendance and participation at safety meeting to review this incident (documentation required).
  • Employees understand urgency in protecting themselves and others.
  • Supervisors and Employees are clear which items shared in this Safety Flash are mandatory.
  • Employees/Supervisors will focus on recommended actions during future work activities of a similar nature.
Contract Firm Management Rep Signature____________________

THINK about the hazards associated with your particular work, and the steps that can be taken to increase safety on your job.


If you have questions about this CONTRACTOR SAFETY FLASH, please contact [email protected]

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