A person’s eyes are, for the most part, one of the least protected parts of the body. Because of this, they are exposed to a variety of injuries, especially in the workplace. Employees, especially those working in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, are at risk of having harmful chemicals splash onto their faces. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 2,000 employees incur eye injuries in the workplace every day.
OSHA Regulations and ANSI Standards
As such, facilities that produce or make use of dangerous corrosives are must have drenching equipment immediately on hand for emergencies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has enacted guidelines (specifically in regulation 29 CFR 1910.151(c)) to address this, requiring facilities to supply eyewash, eyewash stations, showers and other such safety equipment to their employees.
In their regulations, OSHA refers to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)’s Z358.1 standard as the guide by which eyewash, eyewash stations and showers should meet. The standard includes various requirements, such as:
- Eyewash stations and showers must be located in easy-to-reach areas, in such a way that employees can access them within 10-seconds. This is currently known as the 10 second rule.
- Stations and showers should have the capacity to deliver flushing fluid uniformly over a period of 15 minutes
- The 2009 update requiring eyewash stations to make use of tepid flushing solutions, with temperatures falling within 60 °F and 100 °F. Temperatures that are too cold can cause hypothermia, as well as prevent employees from completing the necessary 15 minutes of washing. Temperatures above 100 °F are harmful to the eyes and even aggravate adverse chemical reactions.
- Equipment should be located in well-lit areas that are identified by highly visible signage
- Eyewash equipment are certified ANSI-compliant every year by a third party
Emergency equipment located in areas that are exposed to freezing may require additional effort to ensure that they are functioning properly. In such instances, freeze protection should be provided to the water distribution piping, as well as the actual eyewash stations and showers. And while insulation is important, it may not always be enough to prevent freezing, as it only reduces heat loss. Use of specialized equipment may be necessary.
For certain high-risk scenarios, OSHA regulations extend the requirements set in the ANSI guidelines. For instance, regulations indicate that specialized shower and eyewash equipment should be provided for work areas with open vessels that carry hazardous substances.
Employees working in industrial facilities are exposed to various work hazards, and so need proper protection to help ensure that they retain good use of their eyesight (and other senses as well). As such, the presence of eyewash stations and showers is crucial in preventing potentially hazardous eye injuries. Ensuring that facilities supply eyewash and shower stations that deliver cleansing water is a wise investment in workplace safety.
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