Regarding eye injuries, the first step in dealing with these is to record a full account of the circumstances of its occurrence followed by a careful eye examination. In order to prevent eye injuries, appropriate goggles or protective equipment should be worn while carrying shipboard jobs which pose great danger to the eyes of ship personnel (eg. welding, chipping, painting, and working with hazardous material such as oil, chemicals etc.).

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Key questions to ask when an eye injury occurs

  • Is your vision normal?
  • Can you read ordinary print with the affected eye?
  • Does it feel as if there is something in your eye that stops you from opening it or keeping it open?
  • Does bright light bother you?
  • Have you been working with chemicals? If yes, which ones?

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How to conduct an eye examination on board

When an eye injury occurs, it is important for the patient to lie down with the head supported and slightly title back. Good lighting is vital during the examination as well as fluorescein eye stain strips, anaesthetic eye drops and antibiotic eye ointment. Compare the injured eye with the other eye, using a diagram to record your findings and check if the patient can open the affected eye and can keep it open. Ask the patient to read from a newspaper or book to check if the patient can open the affected eye and can keep it open.  Examine the white are of the eye (sclera) for damage or foreign bodies. Gently hold apart the eyelids with the fingers and ask the patient to look up, down, left and right. Make sure you see clearly into each corner of the eye. Also, it is necessary to roll back the upper lid.

Exposure to chemical burns

In case a seafarer involves in an eye chemical burn or exposure, the following should be taken into considerations as actions to provide first aid:

  1. Wash the chemical out of the eye with copious amounts of water for as long as necessary, usually at least 10 minutes.
  2. Stain the eye with fluorescein (if there is marked staining of the eye):
  3. Apply eye ointment copiously to prevent the eyelids sticking to the eyeball and cover the eye with petroleum jelly gauze and an eye pad;
  4. Repeat every four hours;
  5. Have the injured seafarer to see a doctor as soon as possible;

Actions to be taken

The following measures are of paramount importance to minimize exposure to injurious liquids, chemicals, particles, or other substances which might pose a hazard if they are in direct contact with the eye. Operators are advised to:

  • Understand where the risk of an eye injury exists for each shipboard job, identify suitable protection to prevent such injury
  • Choose equipment that is clean and functional and replace it when necessary
  • Ensure shipboard personnel wears the appropriate eye protection (glasses, goggles, face shield) in areas where it is mandatory.

If an eye is exposed to harmful materials or substances onboard, it will only take seconds for severe injury to occur. Taking immediate action to thoroughly flush the harmful substance from the eye with clean and cool water is the first step of first aid treatment. Accordingly, it is important to maintain emergency eye wash stations ready for use should such an incident occur onboard ships.