Industrial, manufacturing, construction, and laboratory work environments all have small particles flying in the air. They can be from chemical splashes, wood, metal, or even food processing. OSHA, under 29 CFR 1910, requires that workers in general industry to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, and employers must make sure each individual has the right gear. For eye and face protection, safety glasses, goggles, or face masks are required, but in very rare instances, a worker may still get a foreign substance in his or her eye. In these cases, a workplace needs eye wash stations in easily accessible locations.
An eye wash station provides immediate decontamination, flushing away substances that may result in injury. While water is commonly used, another flushing or medical fluid may be added. According to ANSI Z358.1-2009 standards, the affected body part – face or eyes – must be flushed for 15 minutes with a large supply of clean fluid under low pressure.
Depending upon the hazard, however, more time may be needed for flushing. Although a mild irritant calls for five minutes of flushing, 20 minutes are required for moderate to severe irritants, non-penetrating corrosives, and unknown substances; 60 minutes is required for penetrating corrosives, such as alkalies, hydrofluoric acid, or any substance that can deeply enter the skin or eyes.
Eye wash stations need to be placed in specific locations around a work area. Essentially, placement makes a station accessible, keeps it clean, and prevents water from freezing. Specifically, the station must be located 10 to 20 feet from a hazardous area – but not any farther. For the eye wash station to be visible, it needs to be clearly identified with a sign and a clear path must always go directly to it. Because flushing may only be a short-term solution, the station needs to also be close to an emergency exit.
To keep the water ready for use, the station needs to be inspected weekly and should not be placed near electrical equipment or in any place in which it would freeze. Ideally, the water inside should be 60°F to 100°F, with 68°F to 77°F being the desired range.