The Effects Of Chemical Splashes In The Eye

An emergency eyewash providing protection  against chemical exposure to the eyes.
An Arboles UK emergency eyewash providing protection against chemical exposure to the eyes.

When it comes to maintaining and operating a successful working environment, having efficient health and safety precautions in place is always paramount.

However, the importance of effective hazard prevention is even greater when your working environment deals with potentially dangerous chemicals, one of the biggest risks associated with this being accidental chemical contact via splashing to the skin and, perhaps most critically, to the eyes.

Familiarising team members with the effects of injuries within the working space is just one of the many key aspects of health and safety training that all employers and educators should be putting into practice, especially when it comes to situations as potentially serious as chemical splashes.

With that in mind, what are the potential effects of a chemical splash in the eye, what treatments are available in these instances and what precautions could all workspaces have in place to prevent them?

Effects of chemical eye splashes

Chemical eye splashes don’t simply occur via liquid splashing – a chemical splash is the umbrella term given to chemical contact in the form of a liquid, mist, vapour, gas, fumes and aerosols. So, if someone within your working environment should find themselves on the receiving end of a chemical splash to their eyes, what are the potential ramifications?

The level of potential harm is dependent largely on the properties of the chemical in question and its position on the pH scale. The closer to neutrality (a position of 7 on the pH scale) the chemical is, the less potentially harmful the chemical splash is likely to be.

However, the more acidic (less than 7) or alkaline (more than 7) the chemical is according to the scale, the higher the potential severity of the splash’s effects.

Of course, this isn’t to say that chemicals towards the middle of the scale shouldn’t be treated with the same care and precaution as those closer to 1 or 14. Treating all chemicals very carefully is good practice for those who deal with chemical substances at any level.

The potential effects of a less severe chemical splash are usually temporary if dealt with quickly and effectively and include blurred vision, swollen eyelids, stinging or burning, irritation and redness. However, if the splash is not dealt with promptly or involved a chemical closer to either end of the pH scale, the effects may be a lot more serious and long-term.

The potential effects of a more serious chemical eye burn include retinal damage, glaucoma, cataracts, corneal ulcers, corneal perforation and, in very severe cases blindness or complete loss of the eye itself.

With that in mind, it’s crucial that the appropriate precautions and training are in place in environments where chemicals are used at any level.

Preventing chemical eye splashes

When looking to prevent chemical splashes, the two most effective tools to utilise are effective training and appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).

When it comes to training, any person likely to encounter chemicals in your working environment should be given instructions on the best practices for not just using chemicals, but for identifying, transporting, transferring and storing chemicals, too. These are all instances in which malpractice could result in chemical eye splashes, so each one is always worth covering in sufficient    

The amount of PPE required in your working environment is likely to vary depending on the specific type of chemicals being used, as well as the nature of the task itself.

When using highly diluted chemicals for cleaning purposes, for example, rubber gloves should be sufficient to protect the skin.

However, in instances where harsher chemicals are in use or the person carrying out the task is coming into closer contact with the chemicals, more exhaustive PPE is needed. Masks, protective coveralls, and laboratory-grade gloves should always be accessible to team members in these working environments.

In either case, the potential severity of chemical eye burns means that protective goggles should always be worn by those working with chemicals to reduce the risk of these substances coming into contact with the eyes. Gloves are also a must, as harmful chemicals can be transferred to your eyes if you were to touch them with even traces of the chemical on your fingers.

Treatment for chemical splash in the eye

Prevention is, of course, better than a cure – however, a chemical eye burn is always a potential risk in any environment where hazardous chemicals are being used.

If anyone within your working environment suffers a chemical splash to their eyes, it’s crucial that immediate and thorough action is taken.

First off, quickly help the affected person over to the nearest eye wash station and help them to rinse their eyes continuously and thoroughly, with their eyes held open either by themselves or someone else (with thoroughly clean fingers, of course). This should be done constantly for between 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the water to flood the eyes throughout. This needs to be done ideally with air introduced to the water flow otherwise you can risk damage to the retina.

If the affected person is wearing contact lenses, these should be removed as quickly as possible – chemicals may have become trapped between the lens and the eye, hugely increasing the risk of long-term damage.

After rinsing the eyes thoroughly, seek immediate medical attention. An assigned first aider should monitor the affected person during the wait for professional medical help and must be prepared to inform responding paramedics about the chemical involved – whether it was an acid, alkali and what form the chemical took (liquid, powder, fumes, etc.).

The length of time between contact occurring and the eyes being rinsed is a main determining factor in how serious the long-term effects of the injury are, so it’s imperative that your eyewash station is as nearby as possible.

Arboles emergency eyewash stations

When it comes to chemical splashes, every second counts!!

If you work with chemicals in any work or education setting, it’s imperative that your working environment is equipped with at least one emergency eyewash station. All our emergency products are all ANSI, EN etc certified so adhere to / exceed all current standards.

At Arboles UK, we offer a wide range of decontamination booths, emergency eye wash stations, emergency showers and emergency tank fed showers with a system to suit every setting, whether it’s work, education, indoor or outdoor. Health and safety is of utmost important in any setting where chemicals are in use – we’re happy to help companies across the globe achieve and maintain the highest health and safety standards possible.

For more information on any product within the Arboles UK range, get in touch today.