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After the structural collapse of a large building, emergency responders and support personnel are often exposed to hazardous agents and conditions. These workers are at high risk of injury and illness at such a site.

Common Hazards

The most common eye hazards faced by emergency workers at the structural collapse of a large building are the following:

  • Dust, concrete, and metal particles
  • Falling or shifting debris, building materials, and glass
  • Smoke and noxious or poisonous gases
  • Chemicals (acids, bases, fuels, solvents, lime, and wet or dry cement powder)
  • Cutting or welding light and electrical arcing
  • Thermal hazards and fires
  • Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood, body fluids, and human remains

Common Injuries

Injuries commonly suffered by emergency response and recovery workers at a structural collapse include the following:

  • Corneal abrasions and conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Concrete or metal particles or slivers embedded in the eye
  • Chemical splashes or burns
  • Welder’s flash
  • Eyeball laceration
  • Facial contusions and black eyes


US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Eye Safety – Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery– Archived Document, page last reviewed by NIOSH July 29, 2013. Viewed January 2020