COMPILED BY THE KNOWLEDGE STAFF
As you pry off the battery cap, you realize you’re not wearing eye protection. Sure, you’ve heard about the dangers of battery acid splashing into the eyes, but that always happens to the other guy. Before you have time to blink or turn your head, it’s now happened to you. Are you prepared for this type of emergency?
Emergency eyewash stations are designed to irrigate and flush the eyes in case of contact with hazardous chemicals. A chemical splash to the eyes can be especially dangerous; in fact, some chemicals can penetrate the eye within seconds. It is extremely important to immediately flush out the chemical before it causes severe damage or blindness.
Do you need an eyewash station in your workplace?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a general requirement that calls for employers to provide an eyewash station as part of OSHA’s medical and first aid standard:
Where 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 (29 CFR 1910.151(c)).
So how do you know if you need an eyewash station? You will have to review the Material Safety Data Sheets for all the chemicals you have in your workplace and determine if they are corrosive. Corrosive materials include acids with a pH less than 2.5 and alkalis with a pH greater than 11.0.Eyewash station requirements
Since most eyewash stations often go unused for months, sometimes even years, it’s extremely important they are maintained in proper working condition in case of an emergency. If not, the consequences could cost you your eyesight.
OSHA only offers the requirement to provide an emergency eyewash; however, it does not provide specific instruction on the installation, operation and maintenance of eyewash stations. Many organizations turn to American National Standards Institute Z358.1, Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, which provides detailed information regarding the installation and operation of these stations. Technical Bulletin 385-4, Safety Requirements for Maintenance of Electrical and Electronic Equipment, requires eyewash stations meet these requirements, and some of these guidelines are in Department of the Army Pamphlet 40-506, The Army Vision Conservation and Readiness Program, Appendix G.
Here are some basic emergency eyewash guidelines you should be aware of:
• Close enough to the hazard. In most cases, locate eyewash stations within 10 seconds of the hazard; however, for strong acids/caustics, the eyewash station may need to be within a few feet (such as battery-charging stations).
• Unobstructed access. Ensure access is direct and nothing in the area will prevent easy access when vision is reduced by something in the eyes. For example, a door and mop buckets are considered obstructions. Eyewash stations should also be located on the same level as the hazard (i.e., no stairs) and in well-marked areas.
• Quick activation. The valve must activate within one second and remain on without further use of the hands.
• Clean. Use dust covers that easily pop off when an eyewash station is activated to protect the heads from airborne contaminants.
• Test frequently. Inspect and activate stations weekly to verify proper operations.
Additional information on the installation, such as flow rate, and other requirements can be found in ANSI 358.1. Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
All employees who are exposed to chemicals in the workplace should be trained on the location of emergency eyewash stations. They must also know how to activate them and how to flush the eyes with water for a minimum of 15 minutes before and, if possible, while transporting the injured individual to an optometrist or ophthalmologist. It could save a co-worker’s eyesight.In the Blink of an Eye
Every day an estimated 2,000 U.S. workers suffer job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the blink of an eye, you, too, can suffer and injury if you’re not wearing proper protective equipment.
Eye protection is a crucial part of any workplace safety program, as workers are exposed to a variety of working conditions. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, one of the primary causes of eye injuries is the failure to wear or use of the proper eye protection for the job.
Some people just don’t like to wear safety glasses and goggles. One complaint is goggles tend to fog up. Fogging happens when sweat vaporizes and coats the inside of the lens. If you have this problem with goggles and glasses, wear a handkerchief or sweatband around your forehead to keep perspiration out.
Another complaint is eye protection devices are uncomfortable, but usually this is because they don’t fit properly. Make sure you have the device properly adjusted for the correct fit or simply get another that fits better. You can see a lot better out of a properly fitted eye protection device than you can out of a glass eye.
Be smart and use eye protection when on the job, especially in high-risk areas such as the rifle range, boiler plant, machine shop and motor pool or when performing high-risk jobs such as welding, carpentry, grinding, mechanic work and machining metal. Like all safety devices, eye protection is there for you and your eyes. Wear it. What do you have to lose … other than your eyesight?FYI
Contact your local safety office or industrial hygienist to assist you with identifying eye hazards, surveying your worksite and selecting proper eye protection. For more information, check out the following resources:
• U.S. Army Public Health Center’s Vision Conservation and Readiness page: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/workplacehealth/vcr/Pages/default.aspx
• DA Pam 40-506, The Army Vision Conservation and Readiness Program
• Authorized Protective Eyewear List: http://www.peosoldier.army.mil/equipment/eyewear
• OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection website https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/eyefaceprotection
• OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection eTool https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/eyeandface
• National Society to Prevent Blindness http://www.preventblindness.orgDid You Know?
According to the American National Standards Institute, workplace eye injuries are a leading cause of eye trauma, vision loss and blindness. An estimated 2,000 eye injuries occur in the workplace every day, but according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly 90 percent of all eye injuries could’ve been prevented by using the right kind of protective eyewearDid You Know?
To raise awareness about stopping workplace eye injuries, Prevent Blindness America has designated the month of March as Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month.