Eye protection

OSHA: Contaminated water in eyewash stations can lead to infection

eye closeup

Photo: Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Washington – An updated resource from OSHA emphasizes the importance of maintaining emergency eyewash stations so the water does not become contaminated and lead to potential infections.

Eyewash stations are used in workplaces where irritants or biological agents can cause eye injuries. The ANSI standard for eyewashes requires the units to be able to deliver “tepid flushing fluid” at a rate of no less than 1.5 liters per minute for 15 minutes to the eyes, the information sheet states.

Stagnant water in stations may contain organisms that can cause infections when they come in contact with the eyes or skin or are inhaled, according to the sheet. Infections can result in vision loss and lung diseases.

The info sheet specifically describes organisms Acanthamoeba, Pseudomonas and Legionella, as well as the hazards they pose. Exposure to Acanthamoeba can result in eye infections, while Pseudomonas can cause eye, skin, muscle, lung and other tissue infections. Legionella can result in serious lung infections.

According to the resource, plumbed eyewash systems must be activated for at least 15 minutes on a weekly basis to reduce contamination. For maintenance of self-contained eyewash stations, employers should consult the manufacturer’s instructions.