Often overlooked in many facilities, emergency eyewash stations play an important role in the safety of workers. Damage to or loss of eyesight can not only be a devastating personal event, but it can also be extremely costly for the employer. Permanent injury is all too common when flying debris or, worse yet, caustic chemicals impact the soft tissue of the human eye.
Outdated Stations are Unsafe
Recently, I was asked to provide a workplace assessment in a large manufacturing facility. One of this company’s main concerns was eye safety due to the processes taking place in this plant. There were multiple portable eyewash stations in various locations around manufacturing areas.
These stations were manufactured several decades ago, made of a blow molded plastic, and designed to be refilled with potable water. Unfortunately, they no longer met the ANSI standard for the required flow rate or flow time. And, as required weekly checks of the function and water flow had not been documented, all of them contained tainted water that would not be safe for wound flush or eyewash in a real emergency. Additionally, the locations of these stations did not meet the required “ten-second rush to a 15-minute flush” for many of the hazardous work areas. For example, battery acid is extremely dangerous, but there weren’t any eyewash stations near the forklift truck charging locations.
Safety Standards Prevent Eye Injuries
ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 provides clear standards. Here are just a few eyewash basic requirements:
- A minimum ten-second walk from eye hazards (imagine walking while blinded in an emergency)
- A clear path of travel from hazards to the eyewash stations
- A 15-minute flush of tepid water at .04 gallons per minute flow rate
- Mounted so that the flush area is a minimum of 33 inches from the ground, but not more than 53 inches from the ground
- Portable units should be cleaned and have the water checked weekly
- An annual complete inspection is required (flow rate, water temp, the condition of valves and spray heads)
- Plumbed units should have a mixing valve to provide water temp between 60- and 100-degrees Fahrenheit
- The spray heads must be protected from airborne debris and not require a separate action to remove the protective caps (activating the spray should remove the caps)
- The inspection tag should be visible with date and signature of the inspector (just like your fire extinguishers)
- Activation valve must be of the “stay open” type and only closed through a secondary action
- A clearly visible sign is required to identify each eyewash station
The above list contains the most commonly overlooked requirements of emergency eyewash stations. The best source for the complete requirements can be found in the ANSI standard Z358.1.
We Can Help You Stay Compliant
There are now many manufacturers of both permanent plumbed and portable gravity fed eyewash stations that meet or exceed OSHA and ANSI requirements. Please reach out for a site survey focused on eye and skin protection. We are here to help!
When is the last time you checked your emergency eyewash stations? Let us know in the comments.