Wearing contact lenses in an industrial setting poses a number of hazards. In the first three parts of this series, we looked at what employees and employers must know to address these hazards. We discussed how to make the decision to wear lenses and how to care for them. Hopefully, the guidance set out will prevent emergencies from arising. But in this, our final segment, let's talk about what happens if prevention fails. Here's what first responders need to know about contact lenses in the workplace.
Training First Responders on Contact Lens Removal
If an employee wearing contact lenses suffers an eye injury, it's imperative to check the eye and remove the lens. If the lens is not removed, the eye can suffer serious injury. Ideally, injured employees can perform these functions themselves. But if for some reason, they are unable to remove their own contact lenses, a first responder might have to do it for them.
First responders need to be trained how to do this. Improper removal of a contact can make a bad situation worse and cause more serious damage to the eye. Training should cover both rigid and soft lens contacts since removal techniques differ for each.
First responders and safety personnel who wear or have worn contacts themselves may be best suited to do this. But even these individuals require training in the detection of injury and proper handling of contact lenses. My experience with contact lens wearers is that over time they tend to develop poor handling and maintenance techniques that could adversely influence their emergency techniques.
Keep the Appropriate First Aid Supplies
Your first aid center or kit should contain these five items to assist first responders:
- Sterile gloves: Tears in the eye can lead to infections ranging from simple conjunctivitis (pink eye) to HIV. First responders handling contact lenses must wear gloves to protect against these risks. Gloves should be sterilized to avoid infecting the victim.
- Multipurpose solutions: You need solutions to help loosen a contact lens if bonding to the eye's epithelium has occurred and also for temporary storage of contacts. You need solutions for soft and rigid lenses. Caution: Eye wash solutions contain a type of salt that make them inappropriate for contact lenses.
- DMV removal devices: These specially designed removal instruments, referred to as "plungers,"are helpful in removing a rigid contact lens from the eye.
- Glostrips: Available for both rigid and soft lenses, glostrips are used to detect a contact lens that has moved off center onto the eye's sclera (the white part of eye).
- Temporary storage contact lens cases: Having temporary storage cases on hand will help prevent any loss or damage to the contact lenses once removed.
Your first responders should also have access to a data file that lists both office and plant employees who wear contact lenses and the type they wear (i.e., soft lens or rigid). This information may prove crucial to the rendering of appropriate first aid.
In the past 30 years that I've worked with contact lens wearers, contacts have evolved from an expensive luxury to a very affordable commonplace visual accessory. Employers who permit contact lens usage should have a clear contact lens policy in force; first aid responders should have proper training and resources; and employees who wear contact lenses in an industrial environment must follow their doctor is recommendations for safe wearing and care. By implementing these protocols, contact lenses should not pose a risk to the employee, the first responders or the business.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CONTACT LENSES
Leonado da Vinci had an eye
toward the future
By Catherine Jones
In 1508, while studying the effects of water on the cornea, Leonardo da Vinci first introduced the general concept of contact lenses. He wasn't out to correct vision, though.
That was the purpose of French philosopher René Descartes more than 100 years later. Descartes hypothesized that a glass tube filled with liquid, placed directly on the cornea, would help the wearer see more clearly. Unfortunately, the invention had one drawback that kept it from catching on: It didn't allow for blinking.
So it was back to the drawing board for another two centuries. In 1801, English scientist Thomas Young, while studying how the eye accommodates itself to vision at different distances, developed a liquid-filled "eyecup." But again, like da Vinci, his invention wasn't motivated by vision correction.
English astronomer Sir John Herschel proposed two possible prototypes for contact lenses in 1827, one of which involved impressing the shape of the cornea on a "transparent medium." But he didn't actually test his ideas
It wasn't until 1887 and 1888 that two Germans named Adolf Eugen Fick and August Mueller of Germany independently experimented with making contact lenses from glass. These glass-blown lenses endured until the 1930s when optometrist Dr. William Fleinbloom invented lighter and more convenient lenses made of both plastic and glass.
Since the 1930s, the contact lens has been modified and improved many times over. Today's contact lenses are lightweight, barely visible and used not only to correct a number of vision conditions, but also to treat numerous eye disorders. Approximately 125 million people around the world use contact lenses.