Emergency eyewash stations provide on-the-spot decontamination by allowing you to flush away hazardous substances that can cause injury. Hopefully, you never need to use emergency eyewash equipment. However, you want to make sure emergency eyewash stations are both clean and accessible in case you find yourself needing one. If you get foreign particles or chemicals in your eyes, an emergency eyewash station is the most important initial step in first-aid treatment. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury.
Eyewash stations are needed if you handle corrosive materials. Review your Material Safety
Data Sheets (MSDSs) and chemical labels. If you see warnings such as “causes chemical burns” or “causes permanent eye damage” you need an eyewash station in your area. In general, eyewash units must:
- Have highly visible markings and signs;
- Be on the same floor as the hazard. An injured worker should not have to use stairs to travel between the workstation and the emergency equipment;
- Not come into contact with any electrical equipment that may become a hazard when wet;
- Be protected from freezing when installed outdoors;
- Have pure clean water;
- Have hands free operation;
- Maintain a constant water flow rate for a full 15 minutes;
- Have unobstructed access. Workers should not have to pass through doorways or weave through machinery or other obstacles to reach eyewash units.
To be effective, the equipment has to be accessible. The single most important treatment for chemically-
burned eyes is copious irrigation within seconds of injury. This means injured workers should not have to climb over or around obstacles to find the eyewash station. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommends that a person be able to reach the equipment in no more than 10 seconds. In practical terms, consider that the person who needs the equipment will be injured and may not have use of their vision.
If eyewash equipment is located in your shop, mechanical room, or custodial closet, it must be inspected to ensure it functions properly with adequate water flow and is clean and sanitary. The following should be performed:
- The person conducting the inspection must date and initial that the inspection was performed;
- Plumbed units must be activated monthly to verify operation;
- Allow the water to run for 2-3 minutes to ensure adequate flushing of the equipment;
- Place the protective caps back on the eyewash outlets to prevent dust and debris from collecting;
- Portable eyewash units are an option in areas where plumbed water is not accessible. These units also need an anti-bacterial additive to ensure proper water sanitation. The manufacturer’s change-out schedule must be followed. Also, the unit should be activated in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Training in Proper Use
Employees who are exposed to possible chemical splashes must know in advance how to use an eyewash station properly:
- Immediately after the accident, flood the eye with water, using your fingers to keep the eye open as wide as possible. Water may be colder than body temperature, which can be uncomfortable, but it is imperative to irrigate for at least 15 minutes.
- If you wear contact lenses, remove the lenses as soon as possible to ensure the chemical is not trapped behind the lenses. Continue to flush the eyes to ensure the chemical has been rinsed away.
Seek medical attention after irrigating for the required time. It’s easy to forget about eyewash stations until they are needed in an emergency, but this is not the time you want to find out that yours is covered with dust or not working at all. Test your eyewash equipment monthly and learn how to use it. It could possibly save your sight!
REMEMBER: HINDSIGHT EXPLAINS THE INJURY THAT FORESIGHT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED!