Eye Wash Stations: Using Them in a Workplace

Required by ANSI Z358.1-2009, eye wash stations are required to provide on-the-spot decontamination. Accidental chemical exposure can occur in the workplace, and while personal protection should guard against chemical splashes, decontamination equipment must be readily available as a backup.

When a worker needs to use an eye or face wash equipment, he or she flushes the affected body part immediately with a large supply of clean fluid - water or another substance - under low pressure. The liquid dilutes or washes away the chemical but does not neutralize it.

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15 minutes is a general time for flushing a chemical, but more or less may be needed. If the chemical is mildly irritating, only five minutes are necessary. 20 minutes are needed for moderate to severe irritants and for non-penetrating corrosives. 60 or more minutes are needed for penetrating corrosives and acids. If the chemical is not fully flushed, keep repeating the procedure and get medical attention as soon as possible.

Eye Wash Stations: Using Them in a Workplace

When an eye or face wash station is used, it must deliver fluid at 0.4 gallons per minute to both eyes at the same time. Any faster and the water could injure the worker's eyes.

Workplaces should have a plumbed eye wash unit, although portable models can be used. If a portable eye wash station is used, it should provide the same volume of water. Having an eye wash station, portable or plumbed, is not enough, however. To prevent secondary eye infections, the water must be treated to prevent bacterial growth and should be changed and inspected weekly. The unit, as a whole, needs to be protected from airborne contaminants.

Because eye wash stations need to work at all times, the water or fluid inside must not freeze. The water should be between 60°F and 100°F. 68°F to 77°F degrees is the ideal range.

When eye wash stations are installed into your workplace, all need to be 33 to 45 inches above the floor and six inches from the wall. A worker must be able to reach the station in 10 seconds or less and must be able to activate it quickly. At the same time, the unit needs to be 10 to 20 feet from the hazard area.

Eye wash stations must be visible in work environments and located near emergency exits. A clear path to a station must be available, and a sign needs to indicate the location of the unit.

Even with these stations kept in good condition and in the right locations, workers need to know how to activate and use them. Because chemical emergencies can happen at any time, workers need to be trained on using eye wash stations.

Eye Wash Stations: Using Them in a Workplace