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Eye Injury First Aid: What to do in an Emergency

Eye Injury First Aid: What to do in an Emergency

Our bodies protect our eyes in several different ways so that dust, debris, and bright lights don’t damage them. They also produce and drain tears that wash away anything that happens to get through the eye’s front line of defence. Tears produced by the eye are made up of water, mucus, and oil in a system that protects the eye membrane from drying out.

But despite the complex make-up of the eye, the membrane of the eye and the skin around it is highly sensitive, thin, and can be easily damaged if they come into contact with a foreign object or substance.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of eye wound first aid and what to do in an emergency at work.

 Click the below links for specific information in this article:

Eyewash station in workplace

Eye First Aid Responsibilities for Businesses

An eye injury can be distressing and it’s important to know what to do in an emergency situation, especially if it occurs in a workplace environment. If you are the person responsible for health and safety at a business, you need to ensure:

  • Staff have access to all the health and safety provisions including a workplace first aid kit and eyewash station if they need one.
  • That the eyewash station meets HSE first aid requirements (“If mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least one litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9% w/v) in sealed, disposable containers should be provided.”)
  • That the eyewash station is maintained properly, that eyewash is in date, and the station is functioning properly.
  • That the eyewash station is easily accessible.
  • Staff have had the necessary training on what to do in an emergency.

Find out where eyewash stations are required and the legal responsibilities of businesses that need eyewash stations. 

Being fully prepared for an eye injury emergency is the best thing you can do to help someone in a critical moment. Equip your business with an eyewash station and an eyecare kit. It’s a small action that could save someone’s sight. 

We stock different kinds of eyewash first aid stations to suit the needs of all businesses, including:

Man in chemical lab

Different Types of Eye Injury: What to do

Chemical Burns

There are lots of chemicals that can cause burns to the eye. This can lead to anything from mild irritation to blindness. The most important thing when a chemical burn to the eye occurs is to dilute and remove the substance as quickly as possible. This is why having an eyewash station nearby is highly important wherever there is a risk of such an injury.

What to do when a chemical burn occurs:

  1. Put on disposable gloves if you can, make your way to an eyewash station.
  2. Rinse the eye for 20 minutes. Make sure to wash the entirety of the eye and the area surrounding it by turning the eye up, down, and side to side. Hold open the eye if needed. Take care not to splash the other eye. Find out exactly how to do an eyewash or help someone do one in our blog.
  3. During the rinsing process, remove any contacts lenses if needed.
  4. Cover the eye with an eye pad or other sterile non-fluffy dressing.

Call 999. Bring the label of the chemical with you along with the eyewash if you can. Continue to wash the eye until medical personnel arrive.

First Aid Supplies for Chemical Burns to the Eye

woman suffering from strong eye pain

Foreign Objects in the Eye

A foreign object could be any solid object that comes into contact with the eye such as dust, sand, or a splinter of wood. Most of the time foreign objects can be easily washed out of the eye, but sharper materials like glass fragments can cut the eye and become embedded. 

Exercise common sense to decide how to treat this type of eye injury. If you know a fragment of glass is in the eye, proceed with more caution as this is more likely to cut the eye.

How to deal with a foreign object in the eye:

  1. Do not rub the eye. The affected person may need the assistance of another person. Have the injured person sit facing a light. 
  2. Gently hold the eye open with a thumb and finger and have the injured person slowly turn their eye up, down, and side-to-side to see if you can locate the object.
  3. Wash the eye by using an eyewash station to clean the area. Gently squirt eyewash into the eye while holding it open and have the person move their eye around to try and dislodge the object. Follow the steps in our blog for how to perform an eyewash or help someone perform one. 

If this doesn’t work, use a clean piece of gauze or the corner of a clean cloth to gently wipe the foreign object away. If this is too difficult then stop, you could risk causing more damage to the eye. Seek medical assistance if this doesn’t work or the eye is painful or obviously injured.

First Aid Supplies for Removing a Foreign Object From the Eye

Close-up of man with black eye wound

Eye Wounds

Eye injuries can range from scratches to punctures to bruising from impact. Eye injures should be treated seriously even if they are small because there is a chance they could lead to injection, scarring, or loss of vision.

Remember that an eye injury might not always be immediately apparent. If you washed a foreign object out of your eye successfully, take care to monitor the affected area in the coming days. Symptoms like redness, hotness, swelling, and prolonged irritation are indicators that something is wrong. 

How to deal with an eye wound:

  1. Call 999 and follow the advice of the operator.
  2. The injured person should lay on their back keeping their head as still as possible. Support the head if needed. 
  3. Have the person refrain from moving their eyes, even the uninjured eye as this will cause the injured eye to move and potentially exacerbate the injury.

Cover the injured eye with an eye pad or sterile, non-fluffy dressing. If there is an object lodged in the eye, do not cover it with a dressing as this could push the object further in. Instead, you could cover the eye with a plastic cup.

First Aid Supplies for Eye Wounds

Saline eyewash solution can also be used to clean other wounds and injuries before dressing them. Find out how to clean a wound with wound wash in our blog and what can be used to perform an eyewash.

Eye Injury Do’s and Dont’s



Wash the eye with eyewash if possible.

Rub or touch the eye until it’s healed.

Read and follow the advice on the product label if it is a chemical burn. Bring the label with you if you see a doctor.

Wear makeup or contact lenses until the eye is fully healed.

Take painkillers to ease the pain of an eye injury.

Try to remove an object that has pierced the eye.

Consult a GP if the eye is not getting better after 24 hours.

Try to remove a foreign object from the eye if it is too difficult. It could cause more damage to the eye.

When is an eye injury an emergency?

Many eye injuries are minor and can be resolved by yourself or with someone else’s help. Having an eyewash station makes it even easier to treat an eye injury or minimise the damage caused by one if you need to go to the hospital.

But sometimes you will need to go to A&E or call 999. If an eye injury is serious it must be treated immediately. Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • The eye has been pierced or scratched by a foreign object.
  • Something has impacted the eye at high speed, such as when using a power tool.
  • A strong chemical has entered the eye such as oven cleaner.

There are also some signs you should look out for following an eye injury, seek medical attention if you notice these symptoms:

  • Changes to sight.
  • Feeling or being sick.
  • Sensitivity to light, high temperature, and a headache.
  • Pain at the injury site.
  • Inability to open or move the eye.
  • Blood or pus coming from the eye.

Please enter your details into the form below along with any questions or comments and a member of our team will be happy to provide you with more information:


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