January 11, 2012 | | Comments 6
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In your eyes – the light, the heat … the chemicals?

A couple of weeks ago, a client was asking me about who should be performing the weekly checks of eyewash stations. A clinical surveyor consultant had given them the impression that this should be the responsibility of maintenance staff. Now, I’m not sure if this direction was framed as a “must” or a “would be a good idea,” but what I can tell you is that there is no specific regulatory guidance in any direction on this topic. I do, however, have a fairly succinct opinion on the topic—yeah, I know you’re surprised to hear that!—which I will now share with you.

Certainly we want to establish a process to ensure the checks will be done when they need to be done. I agree that maintenance folks are typically more diligent when it comes to such routine activities than clinical folks often are. However, from an end-user education standpoint, I think it is way more valuable for the folks who may have to use the device in the area to actually practice its operation. If they do have a splash exposure, they would have a moderately increased familiarity with the location, proper operation, etc., of the device. Ideally, the eyewash will never have to be used because all our engineering controls and PPE will prevent that splash (strictly speaking, the eyewash is a last resort for when all our other safeguards have failed or otherwise broken down.

I’m also a believer (not quite like Neil Diamond, maybe more like Smashmouth) that providing for the safety of an organization is a shared responsibility. Sure, we have folks who call ourselves safety professionals help guide the way. But real safety lives at the point of care/point of service, where everyone works. So it’s only appropriate that each one of us take a piece of the action.

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Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant based in Bridgewater, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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  1. This is an excellent reason for the end-user to pratice, but from a regulatory documentation standpoint your (safety/maintenance/facilities/engineering) should do the “necessary” documentation and record keeping.

  2. I disagree, Steve is correct if the end user does not take any or make any effort in their own safety what are we doing as safety directors . It will always be about accountabitlity for our own well being like it or not.

  3. Getting departmental staff to conduct and document the weekly eye wash tests they are reminded that it is their eyes that might need it and do they want any potential particles building up in the pipes to go into their eyes. Also I ask if they wouldn’t want to be sure it will work properly when their eyes are hurting and need to be flushed?

  4. Totally agree with Steve. If the end users are assigned to do the testing, they are going to have a much better understanding on how to use it if they need to.

    I always ask in my new hire orientation how many of the group have ever turned on an eye wash. I alwasy get a few hands up, but not nearly as many as it should be.

  5. There is device testing and verification (and repair if needed)and that falls most of the time to Facilities/Maintenance and that makes sense in most cases. The case can also be made that this in an Employee Health Issue as it is a back up to PPE. Ultimately I feel one entity should be responsible to test for the sake of consistency and there should be an education component for the staff in the department/area where the Eyewash is located.

  6. We provide temp mixing valves at all single valve eye wash stations and are responsible for all of our mech room stations. Each location with an eye wash station, nursing ,Lab, ES and Nutionn service is held responsible for their own documentation. We become responsible for maitenance and repair if the station is out of the parameters. However the responsible Department must let us know when temps are out of the parameters that are clearly shown on the sheet. Somewhere the person that has the potential of using the station should take ownership. There is a difference between this and the fire alarm or extiquisher that might be in their area.

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