Think a minute . . . besides firefighting and emergency rescue, are there any other professions where workers have absolutely no idea what they’ll be doing that day, what to expect next, or whether they’ll even come through their shift unscathed? Even military personnel usually have some idea of their basic mission. But unless a firefighter or rescuer has a crystal ball, they don’t have a clue what they’ll face next. When called to action though, they’d better be ready for anything.
For these heroes, the first step in helping others is to make sure their own safety is secure. This means wearing specialized eye protection and hearing protection, because no matter what the situation, these workers are in constant danger of severe eye injury, as well as irreversible hearing damage.
The Case for Eye Protection
Firefighters need to protect their eyes from intense heat; ash and debris whipped up by wind gusts; high-pressure water spray and other dangerous fluids; as well as flying wood chips and refuse kicked back by chainsaws and other tools. The ESS Innerzone 2 Fire Fighting Goggles come highly recommended, as this Ohio firefighter can testify:
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Emergency medical personnel, on the other hand, are at particular risk from the transmission of bodily fluids. Sealed safety goggles, such as the ESS Striketeam SJ Fully Sealed Goggles, are required to prevent the transfer of bloodborne pathogens. Other dangers to these rescue workers come from flying metal and glass. During vehicle extrications, getting victims out safely often means breaking or sawing through windshields, which sends powdered glass billowing up into faces. And when the “jaws of life” are employed, glass, plastic, and metal debris often shoot out in unexpected directions. In these dangerous conditions then, quality eye protection is vitally necessary.
The Case for Hearing Protection
Noise-induced hearing loss is a huge risk for firefighters. When the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tested 458 firefighters, two-thirds had measurable hearing loss. However, while hearing loss is irreversible, it’s preventable. Earplugs or earmuffs should be required gear when emergency personnel are working where sound levels exceed 85 decibels, such as near sirens, air horns, apparatus engines, and power hand tools used for forcible entry, ventilation, and extrication.
As the International Association of Fire Fighters stresses, “Good hearing is a matter of life and death for firefighters. They must have the ability to hear a victim cry for help, . . . the emergency alarm signal of other firefighters in danger, . . . the low-pressure alarm on their self-contained breathing apparatus, . . . and noises associated with imminent collapse or changes in the fire pattern . . . where smoke and darkness minimize visual cues . . . .”
Aren’t You Grateful?
Gary Perkowski of the Manchester, NH Fire Department shares a story that illustrates just how important both eye and hearing protection are for rescuers:
“On October 24th, we were called to a building fire in an old wooden train garage. The fire started below the floor, which was made of large heavy timbers approximately 6” thick. To get to the fire we had to cut the floor apart. My LT and I each had a chainsaw and were cutting the floor apart, when one of us struck a piece of metal in the floor. We were both peppered with metal fragments on our faces, but my ESS glasses took the brunt of the force. We both had numerous cuts around our eyes but nothing penetrated the glasses and reached my eyes. If it wasn’t for the ESS glasses I was wearing, I believe I would have had eye damage. Thank you!”
If this were you, or someone you love, wouldn’t you want safety goggles and hearing protection consistently, securely, and safely in place?