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Year : 1968  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 207-209

Ocular injuries due to gunpowder blast

Department of Ophthalmology, R.N.T. Medical College and General Hospital, Udaipur, India

Date of Web Publication24-Dec-2007

Correspondence Address:
S P Mathur
Department of Ophthalmology, R.N.T. Medical College and General Hospital, Udaipur
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Mathur S P. Ocular injuries due to gunpowder blast. Indian J Ophthalmol 1968;16:207-9

How to cite this URL:
Mathur S P. Ocular injuries due to gunpowder blast. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 1968 [cited 2021 May 8];16:207-9. Available from: https://www.ijo.in/text.asp?1968/16/4/207/37556

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Table 1

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The purpose of this paper is to mention various injuries to the eye, resulting in blindness, to the workers in the industry where gunpowder is used for blasting. At Udaipur it is used in mining of soap stone and stone for buildings, for digging wells and other minor mining operations, where comparatively a weaker blast is re­quired. Gunpowder blasting is con­sidered to be a minor and safe pro­cedure, and hence frequently all the precautions are not observed, parti­cularly by private miners, which re­sult in accidents.

  Method of blasting Top

It would not be out of place if the standard method of gunpowder blast­ing is described in short in order to get a better understanding of the cir­cumstances in which injury to the eye is possible.

A hole 1 to 3 inches in diameter and 3 to 5 feet deep is drilled in the rock. Many such holes can be drilled at desired distances, depending upon the area to be blasted. The hole is cleaned, and at the botton the desired amount of gunpowder is placed in a paper or cloth-bag attached to a fuse cord. The fuse cord should be long enough so that after igniting, the blaster gets enough time to protect himself. Soft clay, alone or with sand and water is pressed lightly over the explosive in the hole by means of a wooden or brass rod - called stamming rod. No other metal is used in the stamming rod because it is likely to spark when struck against the wall of the hole, resulting in a pre-mature blast, or can cut the fuse. The area is cordoned out to all the strangers and workers except the blaster, who after igniting the fuse, runs to a safe distance and behind a protection of sufficiently large size. A diagram of the position and direction of blasting holes is drawn on a pa­per. After igniting the fuse nobody is allowed to enter the area for at­least half an hour in order to allow the fumes to clear, and avoid the danger of misfires or delayed blasts.

The Government of India in Metal­liferous Mines Regulations 1961, has specified that only a trained certified blaster should be employed in the trade. lie should be provided with an electric lamp or a torch, but never an open fire. Stamming rod and scraper should be made of wood or brass. Shotholes are cleaned before charging. Direction of shotholes are to be clearly marked on paper. Gun­powder is placed at a distance, and should be brought closer only when shotholes are ready for charging. Shothole should neither be underchar­ged nor overcharged, depending upon the task to be performed. The fuse should never be shorter than 1.5 me­ters. Every shothole is stammed lightly with clay alone or mixed with sand and water, but never pressed hard. Blasting gelatine or gunpow­der shall never be lighted in order to set fire to the fuse. All surplus ex­plosive should be removed before lighting the fuse. The blaster himself should charge the holes and subse­quently blast them. Not more than 10 holes are fired at a time. To re­move the stamming of a charged hole, water or an approved device is used.

  Ocular injuries Top

During the last 5 years we have received a total number of 41 patients whose eyes were injured while blast­ing the mines. They were treated in the OPD for minor injuries, or were admitted to the eye wards, or referred to us from surgical wards for their ocular injuries. They were between the ages of 20 and 40 years and were all males.

  Causes of injury Top

Every patient was closely question­ed in order to discover the possible cause of accident and injury. It was surprising that the majority were not certified blasters, and had no know­ledge of the various precautions pres­cribed.

  Comments Top

From the records it is evident that there is a high incidence of blindness as a result of accident in the industry of mining where gun powder is used for blasting. Looking at the young age of the injured in our records it should provoke a social responsibility so that such accidents are reduced to a minimum. It is a well known fact that at least 90% of the accidents in industry are preventable. Because a blaster has to work at close range while working with the shothole, in­juries to the eye form a vital part of such accidents.

The responsibility of prevention of such accidents can be divided at va­rious levels.

(1) The Government should enforce the rules more rigidly and impose heavier penalties on defaulters.

(2) The employer should be prohi­bited to employ unqualified blasters and to see that all the precautions laid down for the procedure are stric­tly followed. They are usually em­ployed on a contract basis during which they try to blast more in a shorter time. This is a dangerous habit and is likely to result in acci­dents.

(3) Great importance should be at­tached to the physical fitness of the workers. Good visual acuity is im­portant in order to enable the workers to identify the result of blasting from a distance. Those suffering from high myopia and astigmatism should be de­barred, even if vision improves satis­factorily with glasses. Further, the importance of education to the labour cannot be over stressed. This can be achieved by diagrams, photographs, books, cinema slides, frequent talks by trained persons, and films on ac­cidents and injured persons, and me­thod of their prevention. Last but not the least it is the responsibility of the worker himself who should, after availing himself of the facilities of. education, be provided with grea­ter incentive in the form of rewards in case he shows no accident record. On the other hand one feels that private employers do not encourage the patients to be brought to hospitals and try to settle their just claims with smaller compensations, outside the labour courts.

  Discussion Top

Dr. G. Venkataswamy: Blasting in­juries are common in villages. It is difficult to train rural workers. These accidents also occur in temper fur­naces.

Mr. B. M. Jones: How many cases that were injured were actual labour­ers and how many strangers? Don't you think protection goggles given to the worker engaged in blasting ope­rations would be helpful?

H. J. Hathi: In blasting work, are arty face masks made of plastic or some such suitable material used and would that prevent injuries to the face and eyes?

Dr. S. P. Mathur: It should be con­sidered serious negligence on the part of the employers to employ unquali­fied blasters and should not be permis­sible under any circumstances.

Blasting is done mostly in mines situated in unpopulated areas. In our series all the injuries happened to the blaster himself or his assistant as well.

It may be ideal to wear a mask of non-splintering material in which provision is made to protect the eyes. We do not know whether such masks are available.


  [Figure - 1]

  [Table - 1], [Table - 2]


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Method of blasting
Ocular injuries
Causes of injury
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