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Protection from Eye Injury

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“Wear your safety goggles!” I can still hear my college chemistry professor bellowing in the lab. Back then, for a bunch of 18-year-old students, safety goggles were an unwelcome intrusion. I didn't see any danger in most of our work. One exercise involved weighing distilled water to calibrate the pipettes. Distilled water dangerous? No way. Why should I wear those clunky goggles to handle distilled water?

Later I got a summer job at the old Bell Labs. Orientation included a safety lecture about wearing goggles to handle chemicals. Nothing was said about goggles for drilling holes in aluminum. But hey, I was nervous about power tools, so I wore the goggles for drilling. I was not nervous about handling chemicals, so I did not always put on those goggles just for a simple task involving solvents. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes.

Then one day it happened. I got chloroform in my eye. There was no damage, but I had to spend about 20 minutes at the eyewash fountain and another hour listening to safety lectures. Okay, I converted. For the rest of that summer job, I followed the rules and wore goggles to handle chemicals.

But there was no rule about wearing goggles for drilling, so I stopped. And one day I got a piece of aluminum in my eye while I was lying on the floor, drilling a hole in some laboratory apparatus over my head. Now, I did not want to hear those safety lectures again. So I went to the restroom and removed the aluminum myself and never told my boss.

Much later, I worked in a lab where there was nobody to enforce the goggles rule. By this age I was wearing ordinary glasses for everything but reading. One day, I opened a very small bottle of an expensive, hazardous chemical. The bottle itself had a strange design, something like an eye drop bottle. Out of curiosity, I examined it more closely. I suppose the heat from my fingers vaporized some of the chemical. And the plastic dropper attachment came loose and shot straight toward my left pupil. It hit my glasses. Thank heavens for near-sightedness!

Eye injuries happen so infrequently that we don't generally think about safety eyewear.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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