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Always Wear Safety Equipment! (a.k.a. Oops!)

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:11 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:13 AM ]
Ask anyone who knows me, and they will confirm that I am "Mister Safety". Goggles, NOISH filter mask, earmuff-type hearing protection...

But for some weird reason, today I was wearing my mask, and my hearing protection while I was doing some soldering, but I neglected to put on my safety goggles. Big mistake...

I was soldering the pipes for the shower controller together, torch in the left hand, solder in the right with maybe 12 inches sticking out off the reel, and I was kneeling in front of the wall and looking slightly up. I finished soldering the joint, lowered the torch, and pulled back on the solder, when I somehow "slapped" my eye with the unrolled solder. I blinked a couple times, thought nothing of it, and went back to work, thinking of how lucky I was with my close call. But after about 10 seconds, I knew I was not so lucky, since my eye was tearing up a little. In fact, it was starting to sting. So I quickly shut off the torch, put down the solder, placed a damp cloth on the controller (to reduce its temperature), an looked in the mirror.

What I saw kinda surprised me. My cornea (the part directly in front of the black dot of my iris) had a diagonal slash across it, like a white haze, about 3mm long, and about 1.5mm wide. When looking out of the right eye, my vision was perfect at the edges, but straight ahead and to the left my vision is blurred. Double oops. I'm now thinking I'm in trouble. What happened is the solder which was just touching the hot brass/copper had swung back and slapped my eyeball with the solder right near the tip, where it was still super-hot. 
So I go outside where my wife is playing with my daughter, tell her that I've "made a mistake", and that I'm heading to the hospital to have them look at my eye.

There, they freeze my eye (just by drops, not by a needle) then give me more drops of a yellow dye so they can look at my eye through a vertical-slit opthamological tool with a blue light, and since blue and yellow make green, any green that they see would indicate a "gouge" in the eye, where the yellow dye pooled.

Looks like my eye is not that severely damaged. The doctor thinks it is just superficial, and prescribed some drops to stop any infection, and told me that if I don't feel a bit better by Friday morning that I should go back (for more drastic measures...)

In the end, I got off lucky. The solder was in contact with my eye for such a short period of time that the burn was not that deep. It was not the impact that did the damage (scratch) but it was the temperature of the tip at the time of impact that did the burn, like touching the edge of the oven when taking out the turkey. I'm taking the rest of the day off, of course, but I'll be back to work tomorrow. My "vacation" time is running out, and the project must get done! 
With goggles this time.
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