Why are emergency eye wash stations important?

The 10 to 15 seconds following a chemical splashing into the eye are critical to preventing extremely serious, and potentially permanent, eye injuries. Employees must have access to an emergency eye wash station to ensure they can quickly and properly flush away hazardous substances.

Even if the proper safety precautions are being followed an accident can still occur. In addition to implementing hazard controls to limit exposure, such as engineering controls or personal protective equipment, it's critical workplaces have accessible eyewash stations to provide immediate decontamination for workers in the case of an emergency.

Types of Eyewash Stations

OSHA requires that wherever a worker's eyes or body could be exposed to corrosive materials that are potentially injurious, equipment or facilities must be established within the work areas and available for immediate emergency use. ANSI defines four types of flushing equipment within their standard ANSI/ISEA Z358.1, Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment:

  • Eyewash
  • Combination eye/face wash
  • Drench showers (for entire body)
  • Combination shower and eyewash

Although portable eyewash bottles and stations are merely supplemental and should not be used as a replacement for the equipment listed above, these options are particularly helpful for rinsing out a worker's eyes until the worker is able to reach an eye wash station.

Making Sure Workers can Locate Eye Wash Stations

Both OSHA and ANSI recommend eye wash stations be located as close to the hazard as possible and that an individual should be able to reach the equipment in no more than 10 seconds. The eye wash or shower should not be partitioned off from the hazardous work area, but instead be clearly identified with a highly-visible safety sign that is easy to understand. To ensure the area around an emergency eye wash station is kept clear at all times, use floor marking to remind workers not to block this equipment.


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