December 2013 - Emergency Eye Wash Units

The OSHA requirements for emergency eyewashes and showers, found at 29 CFR 1910.151(c), specify that "where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use. As the standard states, an eyewash and/or safety shower would be required where an employee's eyes or body could be exposed to injurious corrosive materials. Ensuring worker safety includes conducting a workplace hazard assessment and providing adequate training for all workers who require eye and face protection.

When employees are trained to work safely, through the following requirements, they should be able to anticipate and avoid injury from job related hazards. Squeeze bottles holding approximately a quart of eyewash solution alone are not adequate first aid provisions. The squirt bottles are best suited for employees whose mobility takes them away from the emergency facilities. They are also intended to be used while injured employees are transferred to a station that can flush for an appropriate period of time. The appropriate time varies, depending on the substance, and may be indicated on the product's safety data sheet.

If none of the materials used in the work area are an injurious corrosive chemical (as indicated by the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each product), then an emergency eyewash or shower would not be required pursuant to 1910.151(c).

If OSHA inspects a workplace and finds unsuitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body, a citation under 29 CFR 1910.151(c) would be issued. When determining whether the eyewash or shower facilities are suitable given the circumstances of a particular worksite, OSHA may refer to the most recent consensus standard regarding eyewash or shower equipment, which would be the 1998 or the 2004 version of ANSI Z358.1, as well as other recognized medical, technical and industrial hygiene sources.

ANSI's standard provides detail with respect to the location, installation, nature, and maintenance of eyewash and shower equipment. (ANSI [Z]358.1-2004)

Plumbed and self-contained eyewash equipment shall: be capable of delivering flushing fluid to the eyes not less than 1.5 liters per minute for 15 minutes; be in accessible locations that require no more than 10 seconds to reach; deliver tepid flushing fluid; plumbed eyewash equipment shall be activated weekly for a period long enough to verify operation and ensure that flushing fluid is available; self-contained eyewash equipment shall be visually checked to determine if flushing fluid needs to be changed or supplemented . For further information, manufacturers shall provide operation, inspection and maintenance instructions with eyewash equipment.

While not having the force of a regulation under the OSH Act, the current American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, ANSI standard addressing emergency eyewash and shower equipment (ANSI [Z]358.1-2004) provides for eyewash and shower equipment in appropriate situations when employees are exposed to hazardous materials. ANSI's definition of "hazardous material" would include caustics, as well as additional substances and compounds that have the capability of producing adverse effects on the health and safety of humans.

Information obtained at www.osha.gov. and ANSI [Z]358.1-2004 provides for eyewash and shower equipment in appropriate situations when employees are exposed to hazardous materials. ANSI's definition of "hazardous material" would include caustics, as well as additional substances and compounds that have the capability of producing adverse effects on the health and safety of humans.