A new writing published on the Safety Daily Advisor’s webpage provided some excellent, and always timely, insight into the discussion of eye safety at the workplace. The crux of the piece noted that not all workplaces are required to have eyewash stations. But what’s most important is that for the places that are required, the employees should absolutely know where the eyewash stations are and how to use them effectively.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirements for emergency eyewashes clearly indicate 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.”
And a 2009 letter of interpretation from OSHA states that “if none of the materials used in this work area is an injurious corrosive [chemical] (as indicated by the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each product), then an emergency eyewash or shower would not be required pursuant to 1910.151(c).”
Unfortunately, it’s believed that while OSHA clearly states what should and should not be done regarding proper eye care, little information is provided by OSHA in regards to how proper eye care should be carried out. This is why many have turned to procedures developed by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI also provided the following list of steps for how to respond to an emergency:
• Eyewash stations should be located 10 seconds or less walking time from a work process with hazardous chemicals that could be splashed or sprayed into workers’ eyes.
• Employees who get hazardous substances in their eyes should flush eyes at an eyewash station for 15 minutes.
• Particles or dust in eyes can also be flushed out at an eyewash station.
• Following use of the eyewash station, employees should normally seek medical attention, especially if a hazardous chemical is involved or if irritation or pain continues after attempting to flush a particle out of the eye.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2,000 American workers sustain an eye injury every day that requires medical treatment. About one third of these injuries are treated in hospital rooms, and around one hundred of these daily injuries lead to at least one lost day of work. Furthermore, injury isn’t the only hazard for eyes. People who work in labs or with animals, janitors, or healthcare professionals all stand at risk of suffering eye infections if proper eye care isn’t implemented at the workplace. The intensity of these infections can range from minor conjunctivitis to the avian flu or even HIV.
I can personally attest to the importance of eye safety. While I was in the army working on an armored vehicle, a fuel came loose and sprayed me in the eyes. I didn’t personally know where the eyewash station was at the time because we were off site. But my buddy did and he, thankfully, reacted quickly. So just remember that you can’t ever play it too safely. And if you, or someone you may be close to, have any concerns, questions, or need for counsel regarding a workplace injury, please feel free to contact Altman and Altman at any time.