According to NIOSH, roughly 2,000 work-related eye injuries occur each day; these injuries can result in anywhere from one to multiple days of lost work and serious life altering damage to workers. What tools are available to workers via your eyewash station can not only help reduce the amount of work lost but, more importantly, make the difference in saving the injured worker’s vision. With a number of different things that you must be compliant with and a variety of different options to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming for some when it comes to selecting the right emergency eyewash station for their facility. Here are some simple ways to help assess what to look for and how to choose the best station for your needs.
Know What’s Required
ANSI has the following specific requirements for all eyewash stations:
- Should be available in "accessible" locations within 10 seconds of the hazard.
- Should be in a location free of obstructions that inhibit immediate use and on the same level as the hazard with no steps or stairs in between.
- Must be clearly visible, well-lit and identified with a sign.
- Should deliver a 15-minute continuous flow.
- Should be located in areas where caustic or hazardous substances are present*
- Should have an on-off valve, pull strap or door that activates with one single motion in one second or less.
- Must be inspected annually to confirm they meet ANSI Z358.1 requirements.
- Emergency shower and/or eyewash stations are required for activities associated wth: pulp, paper and paperboard manufacturing; formaldehyde handling; construction industry; anhydrous ammonia; powered industrial trucks; telecommunications; and hazardous materials.
*NOTE: Always check relevant Material Safety Data Sheets to determine if the chemical or substance in your facility requires 15-minute eye flushing.
Know Your Hazards
One of the first things to do when making the decision on an eyewash station is to answer the following question: what are the potential hazards that could affect your workers? In construction the most common are foreign objects such as metal slivers, wood chips or dust; however, others may be exposed to chemicals or infectious diseases instead due to working in labs or with ill people/animals.
The various features needed by your facility will change based upon the type of hazards you will be encountering.
Plumbed vs. Portable
Once you know what your hazards are the next step is to decide whether a plumbed or a portable station is the best solution.
Plumbed stations have been around for a long time and provide a reliable option. However, they can be expensive and do not provide the flexibility to change location as needed. Another thing to consider is that ANSI mandates that plumbed eyewash stations be inspected via weekly activation for 2 reasons:
- Confirm proper operation
- Flush away bacteria, sediment and mold that can buildup in the plumbing
On the other hand, portable eyewash stations are self-contained and can provide the flexibility to relocate as needed with changing job locations or hazards. They do not require the weekly activation but the fluids used can range in expiration from 6 months to 2 years.
When dealing with eye safety there are 3 main types fluids to choose from based on your station: tap water, treated/mixed potable water and sealed cartridges.
- Tap water: this is the main source of flushing fluid for plumbed stations. While it works to provide assistance when needed, many medical experts advice that tap water has been known to increase damage to the injured eyes being treated. This is most true in areas where the water supply is not treated to remove bacteria. As stated before, those same pollutants will also cause buildup in pipes if left untreated and require weekly maintenance as a result.
- Treated water: also known as “mixed concentrate,” this type of flushing fluid is created by mixing tap water with a preservative. The solution generally expires after 6 months so requires less maintenance than plain tap water, however, each manufacturer will have their own cleaning and refilling schedules that should be adhered to by users.
- Sealed cartridges: this style of fluid provides a sterile solution that does not require any tap water. Due to its purified, saline based solution it has the potential to last up to 2 years. It is also the most advanced option in today’s emergency eye flushing world but it has the price tag to reflect it.
One of the other items to consider when selecting an eyewash station is the way it drains the fluid. The most common ways to drain are for the liquid to travel via floor drains or into special containers found near or which are parts of the stations themselves. Here are some examples of drainage:
- Floor drain: A floor drain prevents puddles from forming on the floor which also helps to stop additional hazardous situations from harming others.
- Special containers: A special container such as a bucket could be purchased to catch the flushing fluid, while not the most technologically advanced method, it allows for use with portable units.
- Eyewash stations with a reservoir: Some portable eyewash stations come with their own reservoir built into them to catch the flushing fluid. They are then emptied and replaced as needed or directed in the manufacturer instructions.
One special item to note is for when dealing with hazardous chemicals. If dealing with the drainage of hazardous chemicals which are not allowed to be introduced into sanitary waste systems then additional steps have to be taken. For example, a floor drain must have piping that is either connected to an acid waste disposal system or a separate neutralizing tank. This kind of additional step must be implemented properly in order to prevent costly health citations.
We’ve already discussed multiple timelines for maintenance, but we should also explain that no maintenance schedule will be the same from facility to facility. There are many different ways to setup your eyewash station and each customization will alter how often items should be cleaned or replaced. When evaluating this step all external items should be taken into account to attempt to plan for any previously unforeseen interruptions such as budgets, maintenance labor hours, holidays, etc.
While these are the main items to consider when choosing the right eyewash station for your facility, there are usually many other questions that come up while evaluating this important decision. If you need more help in deciphering between options/models, or just need an expert opinion, contact your local ORR Safety account manager. Our safety experts are fully trained on all the standards and can help customize your safety solutions.