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Trends in … eyewashes/showers

February 1, 2012

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Expert advice

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

Eyewash and shower systems are like life vests on a cruise ship – people usually do not need them but are glad to have them in case of emergency. And as with any device that can prevent serious injury, manufacturers are continually coming up with new ways to improve emergency eyewash and shower systems.

Nick Tallos, vice president of engineering at Warminster, PA-based Therm-Omega-Tech, said safe fluid temperature is very important. Tallos noted that a “unique system is in development that will cool water on demand to keep it within a safe range,” and that “scald protection bleeder valves are already available to bleed out water that is above the safe range temperature.”

Jason M. Renner, senior product manager for Menomonee Falls, WI-based Bradley Corp., mentioned shower devices that “create a spinning motion that allows for a more uniform distribution of water without gaps in coverage – together. These new designs effectively remove contaminants faster and more effectively than ever.”

However, Renner also relayed the importance of safety regarding water that has already been used. “Some eyewash and drench shower products now include self-draining features that will ensure water will drain out after the device is closed,” Renner said. “This prevents the water from stagnating and reduces the risk of bacteria growth when the unit is not in use.”

Misuse of eyewash and shower stations can be extremely dangerous, but it does sometimes occur in workplaces. “People tend to forget to replace dust covers on spray heads on open eyewashes, therefore risking contamination,” said Tony Hughes, managing director for Stockport, United Kingdom-based Hughes Safety Showers. “Obstructions left on or around the eyewash/shower can prevent quick access in an emergency and may cause further injury,” he added.

Kelly Piotti, senior product manager for emergency eyewash at Morristown, NJ-based Honeywell Safety Products, said she has seen it all when it comes to eyewash and shower dangers. “Believe it or not, we’ve seen many instances where eyewash stations are located behind locked doors,” Piotti said. “Every second counts in first aid to injured eyes, so quick and easy access to eyewash is vital.”

Easy access is not the only important issue. To get the most benefit from an eyewash or shower system, an injured person needs to flush or rinse for the proper amount of time. “Any time an injured person does not thoroughly rinse the injured area for 15 minutes, they are not using the equipment properly, which of course could hamper their recovery time,” said Margo Mee, a product manager for Sparks, NV-based Haws Corp.

So what can employers do to help ensure worker safety regarding emergency eyewashes or showers? Mee said education and training is the best way to prevent injuries or misuse. Hughes agrees. “Routine testing is often overlooked, but essential, for reliable operation, as is regular maintenance,” he said.

Piotti believes having the cleanest fluid possible should never be ignored. “Fluid such as tap water, which does not match the eye’s natural pH, can cause further irritation to an already compromised eye,” Piotti said. “Similarly, harmful micro-organisms and other contaminants commonly found in tap water can cause secondary injury and even vision loss.”

As a starting point, Renner advises looking to the Internet for help. “Online safety product configurations are growing in popularity,” he said. “These tools walk you through a step-by-step selection process to ensure that you have created the correct product model and options.”

Finding the right emergency eyewash or shower may seem daunting. But when each part of the process is examined separately, and testing is conducted regularly, the goal of having a safe and working device can be achieved. 

Coming next month…
Respiratory protection

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