Individuals employed in the industrial sector are often involved in the use or manufacture of hazardous materials. In these environments, they are at risk of severe injuries to their face and eyes, resulting from accidental splashes. Because of this, providing the proper safety equipment is necessary to maintain workplace safety and protect employees from harmful chemical contact.
To ensure that these safety equipment perform at their optimal best, federal regulations are in place in order to implement strict standards. The ANSI Z358.1-2009 standard, for instance, establishes performance and use requirements for various eyewash and drench shower safety equipment, as well as supplemental equipment such as personal wash units and drench hoses.
The ANSI standard also details the requirements for employee training, testing procedures, and maintenance of these equipment. First implemented in 1981, the ANSI Z358.1 standard was modified at different times, namely in 1990, 1998, 2004, and 2009. While few changes have been added since the 2004 version, an important update was made in the 2009 revision. This revision addresses the temperature of the flushing fluid used for the eyewash equipment.
Updates to the ANSI Z358.1-2009 Standard
From the Appendix to Definitions. Medical professionals recommend that flushing fluids used to treat chemical burns and injuries should be set at tepid temperature. Unfortunately, the availability of tepid water is an often overlooked factor of maintaining compliant eyewash and shower stations. In fact, details concerning tepid water used to be included in the Appendix segment of the ANSI Z358.1 standard. Now, these requirements are stated in the Definitions, with tepid water being defined as “A flushing fluid temperature conducive to promoting a minimum 15 minute irrigation period.”
Optimal Range. In detailing the requirements, the 2009 standard uses the strictest language yet to stress the importance of providing water at the proper temperature. The optimal range given is 16-38°C (60-100°F), since anything higher than 100°F can increase chemical reactions to the eyes and skin, while temperatures below 60°F can lead to hypothermic shock. As such, the standard warns that, while low-temperature water may provide immediate relief from the effects of spills and splashes, over-exposure to cold fluids can adversely affect the body’s ability to maintain adequate temperature, as well as interfere with first aid treatment.
Protection Against the Cold. Furthermore, most facilities in the United States are located in or have work areas with low temperature environments. The potential risks in such places are increased during the winter season, when outside temperatures can go below 32°F. Because of this, the standard also states that eyewash stations and shower units exposed to freezing temperatures should be provided with appropriate safeguards and protection.
With ANSI’s updated guidelines for eyewash stations and showers, facility inspections have increasingly focused on the temperature of flushing fluids. The implementation of these requirements will be increasingly monitored, and as such, facilities should ensure that they are in compliance. Providing tepid flushing water for eye wash stations and showers not only meets federal regulations, but also helps improve first aid treatment and overall safety in the workplace. This makes it a workplace safety provision employers cannot afford to feel lukewarm about.
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