- What is the OSHA requirement for eyewash stations?
- ANSI/ISEA Z358.1: Guide to Eyewashes
- Keeping the Location of Eyewash Stations and Emergency Showers Clear
There are thousands of eye injuries in the workplace every year. Many workplaces conduct hazard assessments and require employees to wear eye protection such as goggles, safety glasses, and face shields during operations. However, accidents may still occur, especially if chemicals and other hazardous substances are involved.
In emergency situations, eye injuries need to be treated as soon as possible; the first 10-15 seconds are critical, especially if an employee’s eyes came into contact with a corrosive substance. The appropriate first aid response is to flush out the eyes for at least 15 minutes, which can be done with flushing fluid from an eyewash station. The guiding regulation to these stations is ANSI/ISEA Z358.1: “American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment.”
Under this globally-accepted ANSI standard, a “flushing fluid” is defined as any saline solution, potable (drinking) water, preserved water, or other solution that is medically accepted. The standard also recommends modifying the rinsing time depending on the properties of the chemical:
- 5 minutes for mild irritants or non-irritants
- 15-20 minutes for moderate to severe irritants and chemicals that cause acute toxicity
- 30 minutes for corrosives
- 60 minutes for strong alkalis such as calcium hydroxide and sodium
It’s important to be familiar with the Safety Data Sheet associated with each chemical that is used in your specific workplace; the SDS provides information on the substance and includes a section for first aid measures. If the nature of the substance is not known, ANSI recommends flushing for 20 minutes. Employees should seek medical attention as soon as possible after they have received this flushing first aid.
What is the OSHA requirement for eyewash stations?
The primary OSHA standard for eyewashes is 29 CFR 1910.151(c), “Medical services and first aid,” which states that wherever a worker’s eyes or body could be exposed to corrosive materials that are injurious, facilities must be provided for a quick flushing or drenching of the eyes and body. These facilities must be established within the work area and available for “immediate emergency use,” which is defined as being accessible within 10 seconds or less. On average, people are able to travel 55 feet in 10 seconds.
On top of 29 CFR 1910.151(c), OSHA additionally enforces the ANSI Z358.1 standard to ensure that employers are in compliance with first aid and medical regulations. ANSI’s eyewash standard provides further recommendations for the location of eyewash stations.
According to ANSI Z358.1, eyewashes should be:
- Located as close to the hazard as possible
- On the same floor/level as the hazard
- Completely free of obstructions, including doors
- Easily seen by workers and within a normal traffic pattern
- Be protected from freezing/overheating if located outdoors
- Located by an emergency exit so the employee can be easily reached by first responders
In order to determine the appropriate location of eyewash stations for your facility, the first step is to conduct a hazard assessment. Eyewashes are commonly installed in laboratories, medical facilities, battery-charging areas, and areas that handle or store hazardous chemicals. Factors to consider are the number of workers and the potential of isolated workers; if many employees use hazardous substances at once, more than one eyewash may be necessary. If employees are working by themselves, eyewash stations can be installed with visible or audible alarms so others are alerted that the eyewash has been activated and the victim may need assistance.
Types of eyewash stations
There are different types of flushing equipment which fall under the ANSI standard, including:
- Combination eye/face wash
- Drench showers to rinse the entire body
- Combination shower and eyewash
Additionally, there are portable eyewash units such as individual eyewash bottles, portable stations contained in hard-shell carrying cases, and drench hoses. While these options can come in handy, they are supplemental and should not be regarded as a solution for emergencies or as a replacement for eyewash stations. They do not meet ANSI requirements and their purpose is only to rinse out a worker’s eyes until the worker is able to reach an eyewash station.
ANSI/ISEA Z358.1: Guide to Eyewashes
The ANSI standard establishes universal minimum requirements for all equipment that is used to treat the eyes, face, and body of a worker who has been exposed to hazardous materials. Within this standard, there are several key areas that safety managers and employers need to pay particular attention to; requirements for installation, maintenance, training, and flushing fluid temperature.
The standard temperature for eyewash water supplyANSI requires that the water temperature in eyewash equipment must be “tepid.” Previously, this was defined as lukewarm. The most recent version of standard Z358.1, released in 2014, officially determined “tepid” to be within the range of 60-100ºF. It’s become increasingly important to make sure that rinsing equipment contains tepid water, especially in healthcare facilities. Regulators have also stepped up their enforcement efforts toward tepid water requirements.
The temperature is important because a worker must be able to withstand the water for 15 minutes at minimum in order to rinse their eyes or body effectively. If the water is too cold, this leads to a risk of suffering from hypothermia and causes many workers to stop flushing too early. If the water is too hot, scalding may occur and the high temperature can enhance the chemical interaction between the substance and eyes/skin. When eyewash stations are located outdoors or are otherwise exposed to extreme heat or freezing temperatures, special action should be taken to ensure the water is not effected.
Different chemicals have different reactions, and it’s recommended that an expert be consulted to determine which flushing fluid temperature is best for your specific application. Due to this, the temperature requirement in guiding regulations remains vague in order to accommodate a wide range of applications.
The minimum flow rate and other requirements for the installation of eyewash stations
ANSI provides guidelines for the installation of eyewash stations to ensure that the equipment will work efficiently and correctly during an emergency. These requirements include:
- The station must provide a controlled flow of fluid to both eyes at the same time
- Eye/facewash combination equipment must deliver at least 3 gallons per minute at 30 pounds per square inch (PSI) of flushing fluid
- Eyewash-only equipment must deliver at least 0.4 gallons per minute at 30 PSI
- The station must be protected from airborne contaminants (through the use of eyewash covers, etc.)
- Sprayheads must be positioned 33-45 inches from the floor and 6 inches from the wall
- Actuation valve must be designed so it activates in one second or less, and stays on without the employee needing to use their hands
While newer equipment is designed to meet ANSI Z358.1-2014, older equipment often must be updated to meet these requirements.
Maintenance of eyewash stations
Although ANSI requires emergency eyewashes to be inspected annually, it’s highly recommended that each station and the flushing fluid are checked weekly. One employee should be designated responsible for conducting these weekly inspections and recording the results, otherwise a facility may employ a vendor or contractor. Inspections should include checking the stations for rust, leaks, damage, or obstruction to flow. The flushing fluid itself needs to be checked to ensure it’s the correct temperature and flow.
Conducting regular inspections is essential; eyewashes are not used very often and tend to be disregarded, but failing to maintain them can have negative consequences during an emergency. Workers need fresh, clear, tepid fluid at the correct flow to effectively flush out their eyes. Contaminated water in eyewash stations poses a variety of health risks, and workers may have eye injuries that make them more susceptible to getting infections. Checking the flushing fluid will clear any built-up sediment and reduce the risk for microbial contamination that may occur if the water has been sitting still for a long time.
Training for using eyewash stations
If employees handle and may potentially be exposed to corrosive or hazardous materials, prior to handling those materials they should be trained on how to properly use emergency first aid equipment to flush the face and/or eyes. Workers should also understand exactly where the facility’s eyewash stations are located.
It’s important to train employees on the appropriate actions to take during two situations: when they suffer an eye injury themselves, and when they must help an injured coworker. Certain substances can cause temporary blindness, and a victim may not be able to use an eyewash station by themselves. Written instructions should be posted next to stations as a reminder of what to do during an emergency.
Keeping the Location of Eyewash Stations and Emergency Showers Clear
Workers need to be able to find eyewash stations as quickly as possible. Again, taking action within the first 10-15 seconds after exposure is crucial. Emergency flushing equipment in your facility should be clearly marked and highlighted as much as possible so even someone who is unfamiliar with the workspace can find an eyewash station and understand what this first aid equipment is meant for.
ANSI Z358.1 lays out a few requirements regarding visual communication for eyewash stations. Equipment must be installed in an area that is well-lit and free of any obstructions. Whether you have an eyewash, eye/facewash, or eyewash/shower system, flushing equipment must be identified with a sign. The color green is used for first aid supplies, so workers should be trained to look for this. All eyewash signs and labels should also incorporate symbols that are universal and don’t require language skills to understand. Floor marking for eyewash stations should not only indicate exactly where the station is located, but also define an area around the station with “Do Not Block” tape to ensure it is free of obstructions.
By adhering to ANSI Z358.1 and clearly defining where eyewash stations are located in your facility, you can help keep workers safe and ensure that they have the first aid supplies they need in case an eye injury or other similar emergency takes place. Installing, maintaining, and marking eyewash stations is an essential aspect to practicing chemical safety in the workplace.
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