Trends in ... eyewashes and showers
Conduct inspections regularly
You’re at work and a chemical splashes in your eye. Your next move: Find the nearest eyewash station, which – if properly placed – should be within a 10-second walk from where the incident occurred, notes Isabel Ferreira, product marketing manager, first aid and eyewash, for Smithfield, RI-based Honeywell Industrial Safety.
OSHA 29 CFR 1910.151(c) requires employers to have emergency eyewashes and showers in the work area, and refers to ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 regarding reporting violations of the products.
The ANSI standard also states that weekly and annual testing of the equipment should be conducted, but “rarely is this being done,” said Justin Dunn, product specialist/trainer for Sparks, NV-based Haws. “Based on independent studies by eyewash and shower manufacturers, 78 percent of eyewash and shower units in the field are not compliant for performance-related issues, meaning that there is a 1 in 4 chance that the emergency shower/eyewash will perform appropriately in the event of an emergency.”
Other experts in the eyewash and shower field shared similar thoughts.
Ryan Pfund, senior product manager for Bradley Corp. in Menomonee Falls, WI, called failure to inspect the stations “one of the biggest mistakes we see.”
Pat Maloney, vice president of Ontario, Canada-based Oliver Landon International Inc., said the ANSI standard “tends to be the No. 1 overlooked regulation.” Maloney went on to say that employers should activate the showers on a weekly basis, running long enough to flow stagnant water out of the pipes. “If some unlucky soul were to wash his or her eyes out with bacteria-laced water, they could be subjecting themselves to serious infection and health risks,” Maloney said.
Added Paula Graney, safety sales manager – east, for Speakman Co. in New Castle, DE: “Too often the bowl is found with all sorts of debris in the bowl, chemical or corrosive residue on the spray outlets, missing spray heads and dust caps, rendering the eyewash inoperable or the potential of causing additional harm to the injured due to contaminate exposure.”
The solution? “Proactive education,” Dunn said.
Training should be comprehensive. “Workers should be trained on how to properly perform the weekly and annual testing and maintenance to ensure both the shower and eyewash operate simultaneously, as well as independently; eyewash sprays are at the proper height; and the water is within the tepid range, 60 to 100 degrees,” Graney said. She added that workers should know how to properly use the equipment and where each station is located in their facility. In addition to being within a 10-second walk, employers should place eyewashes and showers “on the same level, in a well-lit area that is properly marked and the path free of obstructions,” Graney said.
Dunn suggests role-playing during training to ensure workers know how to react in the event of an eye emergency. “As a test, blindfold an employee as if their eyes were injured to the level of no visibility and ask them to locate the closest piece of drench equipment,” he said.