OSHA Warns Against Contaminated Eyewash Stations

Several state facilities, including prisons, parks, hospitals, and universities, provide eyewash stations for employees to use in case of an emergency. This critical piece of emergency safety equipment helps mitigate eye injuries when workers become exposed to physical, chemical, and biological agents. If these eyewash stations are not maintained, they can cause more damage to an injured worker’s eyes. OSHA recently posted an updated resource that warns against the adverse health effects that result from non-maintained eyewash stations in the workplace.

Eyewash station
Photo: OSHA.gov

Infection-causing organisms that thrive in stagnant or untreated water have a greater likelihood of appearing inside improperly maintained eyewash stations. When an injured worker’s eyes come into contact with stale water, infectious organisms have a greater chance of causing further damage. For workers with already compromised immune systems (e.g., transplant recovery, cancer, lupus), exposure to contaminated water increases their risk for developing illness.

Infrequently used eyewash stations can also build up sediment in pipes over time, creating clogs and a loss of water pressure. SORM recommends keeping a bottle of eyewash fluid near your eyewash station as a backup precaution. Eyewash fluid also makes a welcome addition to any first aid kit.

To properly maintain your eyewash station, please consult the manufacturer’s instructions. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for eyewashes specifies that the device must be capable of delivering tepid flushing fluid to the eyes not less than 1.5 liters per minute (0.4 gpm) for 15 minutes after a single movement and subsequent hands-free operation. Weekly checks of your eyewash station can help ensure proper operation of the unit in case of an emergency. Create a checklist and place it next to the unit, with boxes to initial and date your tests.

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