As the safety expert, you are tasked with understanding and complying with OSHA and ANSI guidelines for emergency eyewash. This may seem daunting but, in reality, it is quite simple with all of the support available from manufacturers and compliance professionals.
In 2005, 784 citations were issued to companies that did not have eyewash stations in close proximity to employees, according to a report published by OSHA. Another 1,124 citations were also issued to companies that did not provide employees with hazard information and training. In total, penalties for the two reached nearly $800,000. With these harsh realities it is critical to understand compliance goes beyond just having the right equipment. This requires a balance of knowledge, education, training and maintenance steps to support emergency eyewash programs.
IDENTIFY THE HAZARDS
An onsite hazard assessment is the first step that must be taken. Particular attention should be paid to areas where workers come in direct contact with chemicals. As a rule of thumb, eyewash stations are required if work environments contain paint, solvents, battery charging stations, hazardous chemical storage, tool parts washers or chemical pumping/mixing areas. If employees are using chemical-resistant gloves, cartridge- or air-supplied respirators, chemical-resistant goggles or flammable storage containers, emergency eyewash stations are most likely required.
The easiest way to identify if an eyewash station delivering 15-minutes of flushing is required is to review the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) under the first-aid section during your assessment. Dangerous chemicals and substances will note that irrigation of the eyes for 15-minutes is a requirement and therefore signal the need for adequate eyewash stations.
SELECTING THE RIGHT EMEREGENCY EYEWASH STATION
A solid understanding of the ANSI standard will enable companies to make the best decisions when selecting an emergency eyewash station.
Emergency eyewash stations that meet the OSHA and ANSI guidelines and can deliver flushing fluid to the eyes for at least 15 minutes are often referred to as Primary Eyewash Stations. For complete ANSI eyewash guidelines, refer to the ANSI Z358.1-2004 Standard.
When choosing an eyewash station, there are two types to be familiar with: plumbed and self-contained portable stations. Plumbed and portable stations differ in features and overall flushing solutions that they deliver. It is important to be familiar with both to understand the pros and cons of each system and to make informed decisions. Investment cost, flushing solution, maintenance requirements and ease of use should all have an impact on the final decision.
Plumbed stations are permanently connected to a source of tap water. Their greatest attribute is the ability to deliver plentiful amounts of flushing fluid. However, the water quality is only as good as the source it is drawn from. Therefore, if the water source is contaminated then the flushing water drawn from this unit will also be contaminated. These stations must be connected to fixed plumbing and are expensive to install and impractical to move.
Portable eyewash stations contain their own flushing fluid and do not require fixed plumbing. Therefore, these eyewash stations are great for changing work environments or locations where plumbing is not readily available. Portable eyewash stations can be divided into two types: tank-style and sealed-fluid cartridge systems.
The solution in the tank-style unit can be either a mixture of water and additives or water plus a buffered saline mixture to help ensure safe flushing. Mixing and measuring is a requirement to achieve the right balanced flushing solution.
Today, factory-sealed cartridges that require no mixing and contain a purified, buffered saline solution, free of bacteria or contaminations for 24 months, have become a popular choice. These are factory-sealed and contain a flushing solution never exposed to harmful contaminants in the air or work environment. Sealed-fluid cartridge systems are the most recent advancement in the emergency eyewash category.
90 percent of eye injuries are preventable through the proper use of protective eyewear
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