Eyewash stations are an important part of any manufacturing facility. They are required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards and are necessary to protect workers from potentially harmful chemicals and other substances that could cause serious injury or blindness.
Because this is a crucial safety measure in any industrial facility, OSHA conducts random inspections of hazardous sites to ensure safety compliance at all times. In line with that, we prepared a guide to help you determine and ensure your eyewash station is properly located and compliant with OSHA standards.
What Are Eyewash Stations?
An eyewash station is a safety equipment used to flush harmful substances from the eyes. They are typically comprised of a spout or nozzle designed to direct the flow of water into the eyes and a bowl or basin that can catch and drain water. Some emergency washouts also have a shower head that can be used to rinse the entire body if necessary.
An eyewash station can be life-saving, especially in the manufacturing industry, if a worker is exposed to harmful chemicals or other substances. By quickly flushing the eyes with water, it can help to remove the substance and prevent serious injury.
What are the OSHA Eyewash Station Requirements?
OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.151(c) addresses the need for emergency eyewash and shower stations in different facilities so that workers can cleanse themselves after exposure to corrosive materials. However, this standard does not detail the installation, operation, or maintenance requirements for safety showers and eye wash equipment units. Instead, OSHA cites ANSI Z358.1 American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment as a reliable guideline.
According to this standard, emergency eye wash stations must be:
- Accessible within 10-seconds of hazard, approximately 55 feet
- At least 33-inches and no more than 45-inches from the floor
- Maintained to the recommended water temperature, which ranges from 60°F to 100°F
- Identified with an appropriate and highly visible signage
- Inspected and tested regularly to guarantee optimal operation and compliance
Different Types of Eyewash Stations
There are three varieties of eyewash stations that the manufacturing industry can select from, each with its own unique feature to meet specific facility needs:
- Deck Mounted Eyewash Stations – These units may be installed next to an existing sink on a countertop. Other times, they are equipped with a small sink or basin.
- Portable Emergency Eyewash Station – These self contained eyewash stations are mounted to a pedestal that is free-standing on the floor. They come with a small sink or bowl as well.
- Wall Mount Eyewash Stations – These units are wall-mounted and may or may not have a small sink or bowl.
How to Use an Emergency Eyewash Station?
In the event of eye emergencies, here are some steps you must follow to properly use emergency eyewash stations and rinse off harmful contaminants:
- Push the lever to activate the eyewash equipment. For ANSI-compliant units, a single motion will already trigger the activation, causing the dust covers to pop off and the faucet heads to flush fluid out.
- Position your eyes directly in the path of the flushing fluid, and keep your eyelids open while the water washes over your eyeballs.
- Roll your eyes all around so the water gets under your eyelids and touches all surfaces. It’s also important to wash both eyes, even if only one is suspected of being contaminated.
- Flush the eyes for at least 15 minutes. This allows the chemical to be diluted and completely washed out. Taking less than 15 minutes will not suffice.
- If you’re wearing contact lenses during the incident, take them out as soon as you flush to prevent the chemical from being trapped in your eyes.
- After flushing, seek medical attention immediately.
How to Choose the Best Eyewash Station Location for Manufacturing
As stated in the ANSI Z358.1 standard, eyewash units must be readily available and accessible within 10 seconds of the hazard or approximately 55 feet. But, aside from that, there are other important factors to consider when determining the best location for your eyewash station. Let’s discuss the do’s and dont’s for eyewash stations below:
Do’s for Choosing an Eyewash Station Location
- Ensure that the station is easily accessible. If your employees are exposed to highly corrosive chemicals (as listed in the American Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment ANSI Z358), it should be installed 55 feet or 10 seconds away from the hazard.
- The emergency eyewash should be clearly marked so that workers can find it quickly in an emergency.
- In order to avoid contamination, it is important that the nozzles’ design does not require the user to touch the removable covers.
- Install an audio or visual alarm to notify workers when the station is used. This is also helpful in alerting other workers if the user is temporarily blinded.
- Use a tempered water system to ensure that the water is not too hot (38°C/100° F) or too cold (16°C/60°F), which can further damage the eyes. You can do this by using a mixing valve or installing an automatic temperature control system.
- Heat trace the piping for outdoor stations in cold climates and install an enclosure. On the other hand, installing anti-scalding devices helps regulate the water temperature of an eyewash unit in a hot region.
- The emergency eye flush out should be equipped with a sign that gives instructions on how to use it properly. OSHA didn't provide a specific guideline about signages besides "suitable." However, the ANSI has adopted standard signage that is green and white in color with the word "EYEWASH" or "EMERGENCY EYEWASH" printed in big letters and a drawing of an eye and splashing water from a faucet. Reflective signage is always the best option since it's easier to find in low-lighting conditions. Make sure to place it on a wall above the equipment to be visible from all directions.
- Fit a fine mesh filter to the water supply pipe to avoid water-borne contaminants.
- Choose an appropriate station for the type of substance that could be exposed. For example, if you're working with corrosive materials, you will need a different station type than if you are working with flammable liquids.
- The station must be easy to use. In an emergency, workers may not have the time or ability to read instructions. The station should be designed to be used quickly and easily, with clear instructions on how to operate it.
- Make sure the station is properly maintained. It should be cleaned and inspected regularly to ensure that it is in good working condition.
Don'ts for Choosing an Eyewash Station Location
- Don't remove or disable any safety features.
- Don't place the station too close to the hazard, as this could put workers at further risk.
- Don't allow the station to be blocked or obstructed. This could prevent workers from being able to use it in an emergency.
- Don't forget to train employees to use the eye wash station properly. They should know how to operate it and what to do in an emergency.
- Don't install an eye wash unit near electrical equipment. This could create a hazard if the equipment is damaged or wet.
- Don't use the emergency eyewash for any other purpose than rinsing the eyes in an emergency. This could contaminate the station and make it ineffective in a real emergency.
How to Build an Eyewash Station
1. Site Evaluation
A thorough site inspection and evaluation are necessary to determine the best location for the station. Factors to consider include:
- The proximity of the station to the hazard
- The type of hazard
- The number of workers that could be exposed
- The layout of the facility
- Other safety equipment in the area
2. Design and Construction
Once you have identified the best location for your eye wash stations, you can begin to design and construct them. Some factors to consider include:
- The type of substance that could be exposed
- The volume of water required
- The flow rate of water
- The temperature of water
3. Water Supply
The next step is to choose a water supply for the station. The water should be clean and free of contaminants. A good option is to connect the station to the facility's potable water supply.
If this is not possible, another option is to use a container of clean water that can be replenished as needed. The container should be made of a material that will not rust or corrode, and it should be properly labeled.
It is essential to have a drainage system to ensure that the water from the station does not create a pool and becomes a slip hazard. The drain should be located away from the station to prevent contaminated water from flowing back into the system.
The drain should be large enough to handle the volume of water that will be discharged, and it should be appropriately labeled.
Once the station is operational, it is important to mark it with signage. The signage should include the following information:
- The name and address of the facility
- A list of the hazards present in the area
- The location of the nearest emergency exit
- The location of the nearest telephone
- The name and number of the facility's emergency contact
6. Testing and Maintenance
You should regularly test and maintain the station to ensure that it is in good working condition. Testing must be conducted monthly, which includes testing for running water, temperature, flow stream, and the balanced flow of water from the nozzles.
Each station should also be cleaned and inspected regularly. A simple solution made of household detergent and hot water may be used to maintain and sanitize emergency eyewash stations. Clean the unit with a soft sponge or cloth before thoroughly rinsing, making sure to remove any soap residue.
Furthermore, it is critical to immediately clean and disinfect the station during a spill or other incident. This will help prevent the accumulation and spread of harmful contaminants.
How Are Emergency Eyewash Stations Maintained?
Emergency eyewash stations must be maintained on a monthly basis by running the water for 1 to 3 minutes. This is also excellent for flushing sluggish water from the line if left unused for an extended period of time.
Other ways to maintain eyewash stations include:
- Removing any obstructions from the unit
- Changing the water every 3-6 months for gravity-fed or self contained eyewash stations
- Reading manufacturer’s instructions for additional maintenance and safety tips
The Bottom Line
An eyewash station is a vital piece of safety equipment in a manufacturing facility with a risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals. By following the proper location requirements and design guidelines, you can ensure that your station is effective and compliant with safety regulations.