Author: Taurasi, Ray
Date published: September 1, 2010
Journal code: HCPN
Q Can you tell me what the requirements are for emergency eyewash stations in SPD? At the hospital 1 work at we have two plastic squeeze bottles on a shelf above the hand wash sink in the decontamination area which are supposed to be used for rinsing out your eyes if a chemical or other contaminants are splashed in them. Often other items get placed on this shelf and I wonder how someone with something in their eyes and blurred vision would be able to see clearly enough to find and use the bottles.
A A splash in the eye can cause serious eye injuries, infections and even blindness to workers exposed to corrosive chemicals, bodily fluids or other contaminants. Accidental chemical exposures can still occur even with good engineering controls and safety precautions. As a result, it is essential to look beyond the use of goggles, face shields, and procedures for using personal protective equipment. Emergency eyewash stations are a necessary backup to minimize the effects of accidental exposure to chemicals and other contaminants. The first 10 to 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance, especially a corrosive substance, are critical. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury. Emergency eyewash stations provide on-the-spot decontamination. They allow workers to flush away hazardous substances that can cause injury.
Eyewash bottles, such as those you described, can be used to supplement plumbed and self-contained stations, but in no way can replace them. They are portable and may permit the immediate flushing of contaminants. However, eyewash bottles are very difficult for the user to handle, especially when alone and when both eyes have been exposed. Also, one bottle cannot flush both eyes simultaneously. The bottles only contain a limited amount of solution which is not adequate to wash eyes sufficiently. The main purpose of the bottles is to supply immediate flushing. Once accomplished, the user should proceed to a self-contained or plumbed eyewash station where appropriate flushing can be carried out for the prescribed period of time.
The eyewash stations need to be in close approximation to any work area where there is a potential for employee accidental exposures to chemicals or other contaminants. Certainly the decontamination area is such a place. The emergency wash station must be in a designated welllighted and completely unobstructed area and clearly marked with appropriate signage (see figure 1).
OSHA approved emergency eyewash stations are needed in the workplace for adequate eye protection for workers on the job. An assessment of the work area should be completed for proper placement of the emergency eyewash stations. The ANSI Z358.1-2009 Standards (Eyewash Station Requirements) set forth guidelines to follow for the proper location and placement of eyewash stations. When purchasing emergency eyewash stations it is important to read the manufacturers instructions for the proper maintenance for the unit or units that you have chosen for your facility. Each type of OSHA and ANSI approved emergency eyewash station has a different maintenance schedule to follow to ensure that the unit is in proper working order in case of emergency.
Emergency Eyewash Stations come in different types. There are plumbed eyewash stations which draw tap water from the pipes in a building (see figure 2) and portable eyewash stations that are selfcontained with their own solutions that do not require the use of tap water (see figure 3).
ANSI Z358. 1-2009 Standard states:
* Eyewash stations should be installed at "accessible" locations and reachable within 10 seconds of the hazard.
* Both plumbed and self-contained eyewash stations should deliver a 15-minute continuous flow.
* Eyewash stations should be installed where caustic or hazardous substances are present. Check all relevant Material Safety Data Sheets at your facility to determine if the chemical or substance requires 15-minute eye flushing.
* Eye washes should have an on-off valve, door or pull strap that activates within one second with one single motion or less.
* Eyewash station should be located in an area free of obstructions that inhibit immediate use.
* Eyewash Stations and Emergency Showers must have a flushing fluid temperature between 60°F and 100°F.
Employers are responsible to provide routine maintenance of all emergency eyewash stations. Emergency eyewash stations and devices must be utilized and maintained in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. Plumbed eyewash stations must be flushed weekly to minimize potential for any build up of bacteria or other contaminants. It is imperative that workers are thoroughly trained and are competent in emergency procedures relative to exposure to hazardous and infectious materials and the use of emergency eyewash stations.
Hospitals must comply to OSHA regulations and ANSI standards; non compliant violators are subject to serious penalties.
1. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z358. 1-2009 "Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment".
2. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety OSHA 1910.132 -General requirements 1910.133 -General Industry 1915.153 -Maritime 1926.102 -Construction
Ray Tau rasi is Eastern Regional Director of Clinical Sales and Services for Healthmark Industries.