Eye injuries in the workplace are much more common than they should be. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, reports that work-related eye injuries blind thousands of people annually.
These injuries are extremely painful and have the potential to leave victims permanently disabled. In addition to harming your valuable employees, they can also cost millions in workers’ compensation, medical costs and lost production.
To maximize safety and help prevent the risk of eye injury on the job, OSHA requires emergency eyewash stations to be readily accessible to employees working in certain industries or facilities:
OSHA outlines the basic need for eyewash stations, but they defer to the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, for detailed requirements on eyewash safety. ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014: American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, sometimes referred to as the ANSI Z358 standard, covers the eyewash regulations.
Understand the essential requirements for eyewash stations to protect yourself and your workers on the job.*
Which facilities require eyewash stations?
Generally, in facilities where workers are handling potentially hazardous materials, OSHA requires an eyewash station. This may include facilities that use materials labeled with the following:
- Health hazard
If your business is in an industry that deals with refrigerants, industrial trucks and forklifts, battery acids and manufacturing, among others, your workplace likely needs an eyewash station and emergency safety showers.
Eyewash station requirements
Use this list to help you make sure your facility complies with eyewash safety requirements, including where eyewash stations should be located and OSHA water temperature regulations.
An eyewash unit must be within a 10-second distance of the workspace.
It takes the average person walking at a normal pace about 10 seconds to cross 55 feet, which is the ANSI requirement for eyewash and emergency drenching stations.
Ensure the eyewash station is within the required height.
Nozzles for eyewash stations should be at least 33 inches from the floor and no more than 45 inches from the floor. Ensure the surrounding area isn’t obstructed. Every employee should be able to easily access the eyewash valve and faucet, so keep a stepstool nearby if necessary.
Clearly label the eyewash station with visible signage.
Meeting eyewash regulations to protect workers only helps if they know about them. Use appropriate signage throughout your facility to make sure workers can easily locate eyewash stations.
Regularly test and inspect the eyewash station.
Activate the eyewash unit weekly to make sure it functions properly and can supply water. In addition, conduct an annual inspection to ensure compliance with standards for operation.
Check that water flows at a consistent, comfortable temperature.
Water should be delivered between 60°F and 100°F on demand. In the event of exposure to hazardous materials, workers must use the station for a full 15 minutes. Maintaining eyewash for that long will be uncomfortable with cold water and even more irritating to the eye with hot water.
Pro tip: Meet OSHA water temperature requirements while saving on energy costs with a tankless water heater for your eyewash station at the point of use.
See top five benefits of switching to tankless water heaters >>
Weekly eyewash station inspection checklist
Testing your facility’s eyewash station requires more than turning it on every few days. In addition to ensuring the water flows freely and hasn’t become stagnant, check the following when activating the eyewash station every week:
- The valve can be operated in less than a second.
- Water runs clear, and faucets aren’t blocked by sediment.
- Eyewash stations flow at 0.4 gallons per minute (gpm) at a minimum of 30 pounds per square inch (psi), and shower heads flow at a minimum of 20 gpm.
- Eyewash stations or emergency showers—including faucets and valves—are easily accessible and free from obstructions.
Track your weekly and annual eyewash station inspections for your records to help protect your crew and your business.
Make sure employees know how to use an eyewash station
When seconds count, an employee's panic or confusion can delay action and lead to workplace injury. Make sure to incorporate required eyewash training into your new hire procedures and ongoing safety training.
Employees should practice turning on the water quickly, removing contact lenses if worn, and holding their eyelids open under the water flow. Ensure your crew knows that during an eyewash emergency, they should continue flushing their eyes for a minimum of 15 minutes.
At a new or temporary jobsite, clearly show where eyewash stations are located. If your workplace has an increased risk for an emergency eyewash due to the potentially hazardous materials listed above, you can also provide workers with individual eyewash bottles to use while they make their way to the eyewash station.
Ferguson can help with eyewash safety
Our knowledgeable associates can discuss safety products and other essential items you need to run your facility safely. Find the eyewash equipment you need to protect yourself and your crew on ferguson.com.
* Note that this content is not a comprehensive list of eyewash station requirements. For complete information, contact the ANSI.