Eye wash stations are crucial to decontamination in the workplace. Yet, simply having a station with water or solution does not suffice. Rather, eye wash station requirement specify standards for the device itself and its location.
On a basic level, an eye wash station provides on-the-spot decontamination, flushing away any hazardous substances from the eye or face that could result in injury. While personal protective equipment is needed to keep chemical splashes and small particles out of the eyes, an eye wash station serves as backup for the rare instances in which safety glasses and goggles are not as effective. Each station must have water or a similar flushing fluid, no matter if wall-mounted or portable.
ANSI Z358.1-2009 lists eye wash station requirements for decontamination procedures. If the eyes are exposed to an outside substance, they must be flushed immediately for 15 minutes with clean fluid under low pressure; the water or solution, however, simply washes away or dilutes the substance rather than neutralizing it. If the hazard is unknown, more flushing – 20 minutes – is needed. Specifically, if a foreign substance is mildly irritating, only five minutes are needed; if the irritant is moderate to severe or if it is a non-penetrating corrosive, 20 minutes of flushing are needed. 60 minutes are needed if the substance is a penetrating corrosive, such as alkalies or hydrofluoric acid.
In terms of location, eye wash station requirements specify that the device must be 10 to 20 feet away from a hazardous area but not too far away at the same time. In case of an emergency, the eye wash station needs to easily be identifiable and, as a result, needs a sign. Additionally, a clear path must exist between the work area and the eye wash station, which needs to be near an emergency exit as well.
Because of the solution, an eye wash station should not be near electrical equipment nor should it be in a location where the solution can freeze. The water, as well, should remain tepid, between 60°F and 100°F, although 68°F to 77°F is ideal.
For functionality and efficiency, all eye wash stations within a workplace must be inspected weekly, and all workers need to be trained on the use and location of the equipment.
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