Workers are exposed to hazardous, corrosive chemicals during the natural course of their day, usually without incident. However, accidental spills and splashes do occur, even at facilities with near perfect safety records. OSHA requires employers to be prepared for these eye emergencies by providing emergency eye wash and shower equipment in an area that requires no more than ten seconds to reach in compliance with 29CFR 1910.151 (c) regulation. The general requirement reads:
"Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use."
Generally, there are three types of eye wash equipment.
Plumbed eye wash units are permanently installed in your facility, and can serve as eye wash, eye/face wash, eye/face wash showers, and drench hoses.
Self-Contained/Gravity Fed eye wash equipment holds the eye wash solution in a chamber within the unit and must be refilled after use. This is a great option for locations where equipment can’t be plumbed. In order to comply with ANSI standards, a gravity-fed unit must hold enough fluid for 15 minutes of flushing.
Personal eye wash is often supplied in single-use bottles and used primarily while a victim is being moved to an eye wash unit for additional treatment.
The victim is likely to be suffering from eye irritation, pain, and potentially even blindness, and must be able to get to the eye wash equipment as easily and quickly as possible. An eye wash unit must be installed or placed in well-lit areas free from obstacles, and with prominent signage, so that a person with an eye injury can find it.
Late last fall, the American National Standards Institute released ANSI Z358.1-2009. The changes included certification of eye wash equipment, flushing fluid temperature guidelines, and regulation for personal eye wash units.
When accidental chemical spills and splashes happen at work, employers must be prepared to respond. Using the proper eye wash equipment makes your workplace safer and minimizes long term damage and suffering.