Did you know that over 2,000 eye injuries occur on job sites daily and roughly 10% of them require missed days to recover? OR that of the total amount of work-related eye injuries, 10 to 20% will result in temporary or permanent vision loss in the affected employees? If your employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals, you must do everything you can to ensure that your emergency eyewash stations meet the required safety standards to protect your employees. Chemical eye injuries are a painful and frightening experience that may leave a person BLINDED for life and should be AVOIDED at all costs.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has two different types of regulations, general and specific, which apply to emergency eyewash station equipment which are designed to promote eye safety under certain work conditions. The first is a general requirement for eyewash stations. The second is determined based upon the industry in which your business operates. OSHA’s general regulation applies to all facilities that require the installation of eyewash station equipment as a form of first aid, it is contained in 29 CFR 1910.151. It states that:
“…where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.”
This blog post will go over 10 tips to ensure that YOUR eye wash stations meet the REQUIRED safety standards:
- Don’t block access. AVOID storing anything in front of or below an eyewash unit that could block injured employees’ ability to stand comfortably or reach the station.
- Don’t hold the unit at an angle. If the unit is held on an angle it can INTERFERE with the correct flow of flushing fluid, which may result in an injured employee having to stand in an uncomfortable position to flush properly for up to 20 minutes.
- Keep the doors open. NEVER place an emergency eyewash station behind a closed or even worse locked door. Even though the station may not be used regularly when it is needed your employee’s vision is on the line and every second matter.
- Fill the unit properly. According to ANSI, the unit MUST be filled with flushing fluid or pre-packed fluid provided by the manufacturer. Avoid errors when mixing flushing fluid by always following manufacturers’ instructions.
- Watch the unit’s temperature. The flushing fluid must never become too hot or too cold. Flushing eyes with a hot or ice-cold solution can cause further damage to an already injured eye. According to ANSI fluid temperature must be ‘TEPID’. Tepid is defined at between 60°F (16°C) and 100°F (38°C). However, in circumstances where a chemical reaction is accelerated by flushing fluid temperature, a facility’s safety/health advisor should be consulted to determine the optimum water temperature for each application.
- Install the unit correctly. NEVER install an eyewash unit without carefully following the manufacturers’ instructions. Being that stations vary, each one will have specific installation instructions to ensure proper performance. For example, installation height, the rate of fluid flow, and required spray pattern to name a few.
- Don’t alter or tamper with the unit. Manufacturers’ instructions must be ALWAYS followed. Things such as re-routing hoses or changing nozzles will compromise the unit’s performance.
- Keep in mind the unit’s shelf life. ALWAYS avoid using expired flushing fluid. Like any standing water, eyewash fluid can grow bacteria that are harmful to the eyes. Ensure that you have a designated person to check the unit’s expiration dates and to refill/replace fluid as needed. According to ANSI Z358.1-2009, weekly flushing is required for plumbed stations, every three to six months for tank-style fluid stations and every two to three years for sealed-fluid cartridges and bottles.
- Clean thoroughly after use. Any lingering cleaning chemicals or cleaning particles could HARM the next user’s eyes. When the wrong chemicals come into contact, the fluid may turn brown or another colour and coloured fluid is NEVER usable. Never forget to clean, disinfect and completely dry the unit after each activation, this includes nozzles, hoses and nozzle covers.
- Do not cover the unit. Covering the unit with a makeshift cover like a plastic bag to keep dust or particles out can hinder an injured employees’ ability to properly activate the unit in a single motion. Preventing them to start the flow in one second or less which, is required by ANSI/OSHA.
By understanding how to use emergency eyewash stations properly, your facility can ENSURE greater workplace eye safety. Eyes are one of the most vulnerable parts of the body and the benefits of understanding these tips are endless.
To learn more about eyewash requirements specific to your industry check out the link below: