Emergency Eyewash Stations
By Gracie Hogue, BM
Notes: When treating patients, corrosive chemicals and debris and even splash and splatter from the patient’s oral cavity can end up in unprotected eyes. Because of this, it’s vital that an emergency eyewash station is nearby and up to OSHA’s standards. If you’re wondering if your practice even merits having one in the first place, OSHA answers you with a clear and resounding “YES”:
OSHA’s requirements at 29 CFR 1910.151(c), specify that "where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use. As the standard states, an eyewash and/or safety shower would be required where an employee's eyes or body could be exposed to injurious corrosive materials. If none of the materials used in this work area is an injurious corrosive [chemical] (as indicated by SDS for each product), then an emergency eyewash or shower would not be required pursuant to 1910.151(c).
Take a look at your practice’s emergency eyewash station(s) and see if it matches up to these requirements:
- The emergency eyewash station should be located no further than a 15-second walk from the treatment area and sterilization area but not in an area where another contamination may occur. There should be absolutely no obstructions in the pathway between the hazard and the eyewash station, and in a normal traffic pattern for that area for one walking from the hazard to the eyewash station.
- The water should be able to run from the eyewash station for at least 15 minutes, according to ANSI Z358.1-2014: “Eyewash stations should be designed to deliver fluid to both eyes simultaneously at a volume of not less than 1.5 liters/minute (0.4 gallons/minute) for 15 minutes.”
- The user should be able to use both hands to hold their eyelids open and the water to be flowing consistently into their eyes.
- The nozzles should be at least six inches from any obstruction and mounted between 33 and 45 inches above the floor.
- The water should be tepid (defined at between 60-100 degrees Fahrenheit). TIP: ANSI recommends that the water of the eyewash station be flushed weekly to prevent sediment-laden water to be the first contact to the person who needs it in an emergency.
If you check these steps and comply with OSHA, you’ll be sure that your eyewash station is compliant and ready for use in case of an emergency.