Nearly one million workplace eye injuries are reported annually, so the importance of emergency eyewash stations cannot be overstated. The use of proper eye protection along with worker safety training can go along way in preventing potential serious eye injury. The single most important requirement for eye safety is the emergency eyewash station. Emergency eyewash stations have been used in the workplace for over 60 years, but not until recently have the requirements for proper placement, usage, testing and performance for these stations been outlined.
OSHA has two different types of regulations, general and specific, that apply to eye wash station equipment designed to promote eye safety under certain work conditions. OSHA’s general regulation is applicable to all facilities that require the installation of eye wash station equipment as a form of first aid [29 CFR 1910.151 (c)] . It states that: Where eyes of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes shall be provided within the work area for immediate use.
OSHA defines corrosive material as “A chemical that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact”. There are many types of chemicals that are considered to be corrosive, it is imperative to consult with experts and review the Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals being used. The hazardous materials may be in the form of a liquid, solid or gas. Some examples of caustic chemicals include:
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) developed standards specifies the proper use, placement and performance of emergency eyewash equipment. The ANSI Z 358.1 standard was first established in 1981, followed by revisions in 1990, 1998, 2004 and 2009. ANSI Z 358.1 states that there are two types of eyewash stations acceptable they are:
The 2009 version of the ANSI standard was prepared by ANSI in cooperation with the International Safety Equipment Association it is Known as ANSI/ISEA Z 358.1-2009. This standard requires that the flushing temperature in an emergency eyewash station must be tepid and it defines tepid as a temperature range between 60 degrees F and 100 degrees F (16-38degrees C). Thermostatic mixing valves can be installed to deliver a constant tepid temperature for the eyewash. There are also turnkey eyewash assemblies available that provide a point of use water heater dedicated to a single eyewash station.
The information given in this article is designed to help employers and employees understand the importance of the requirements for emergency eyewash equipment. The equipment is supplied in case of an event that requires immediate flushing of the eyes. Employers needing to install emergency eyewash stations should also consider installing an audible and visual alarm system that is activated upon use of the equipment. The alarm system will notify fellow employees as well as medical staff in the event of an incident. In order to make sure the equipment is used properly, it is vital that proper training is given to not only the employees who maybe using the equipment, but also the maintenance crews that install and maintain the equipment.