Eyewashes and worker comfort

Is an injury victim's comfort while using an eyewash ever taken into consideration in the product design phase? It seems like most eyewashes have very aggressive flow patterns.

Answered by Casey Hayes, director of engineered solutions, Haws Corp., Sparks, NV.

Unfortunately, comfort is not taken into consideration enough, and there can be a liability issue at stake. Many of us work in conditions that could result in a chemical splash to the face. We don't always think about this danger while we are working.

But it is a real and ever-present danger that we face.

As specifiers and facility managers, we are tasked with ensuring that available eyewash solutions are not only adequate, but comfortable as well. We should be empathetic in this pursuit.

Nobody questions the necessity for adequate eyewash solutions. But what is adequate and what is comfortable? Have you ever stuck your face in an eyewash? If you haven't, I recommend that you do and then ask yourself, "Would I be able to keep my face in this water for 15 minutes?" After all, the ANSI standard requires a full 15-minute flush for chemical splashes. Now, ask yourself another question: "Is the flow of this eyewash effective and consistent?" This question must be answered in the design phase.

Eyewash systems are well-differentiated in performance between competitive brands. Differences in water temperature, fluctuations in water pressure and stream direction all play a major role in whether a person will be comfortable enough to stay in the eyewash stream for the full 15 minutes, which is vital to the process. The ANSI standard requires that water from eyewashes be tepid (60-100° F). Eyes are very sensitive to cold, and keeping them in non-tepid water may be even more painful than the chemical itself.

Likewise, high water pressure forces water out at such a high velocity that it can hurt the eyes when they are placed in the stream. When this happens, it is unlikely, if not impossible, for a person to keep his or her eyes immersed in the stream for any amount of time, let alone 15 minutes. In addition, high water pressure tends to fill the basin with water and push excess water and contaminants onto the floor. It also can push more water out of one side of the eyewash than the other, causing the flow to be irregular and ineffective. This can cause the victim to quit using the eyewash prior to the required 15-minute ANSI standard.

As a final point, the flow direction is an essential part of specifying eyewashes. An outward flow is medically superior to an inward flow because it helps keep contaminants away from the nasal cavity where they can be ingested, further compounding the problem and introducing unforeseen issues.

User comfort is paramount when designing an eyewash system. If the eyewash is not designed with comfort in mind, it is likely the user will either not use it for the full time required or will opt for another solution that is less than optimal. This may leave an organization open to scrutiny and possible lawsuits. It is best to consider all of these issues in the design process, rather than the legal process.

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