Plumbing the intricacies of eyewash station selection

By: November 20th, 2008 Email This Post Print This Post

Safety tip from Medical Environment Update, December 2008

Generally, eyewash stations with bottles of buffered solution don’t meet OSHA requirements—at least not for exposure to injurious corrosive materials. That is because in these types of exposures, OSHA requires “suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body.” The suitability of an eyewash station is not addressed in the standard, 1910.151(c), but any OSHA inspector will likely reference the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for eyewash stations.

The ANSI standard sets requirements for hands-free activation and operation, flow duration, and volume, among other things.  These are specifications that usually disqualify eyewash stations with bottles. Additionally, most material safety data sheets for corrosive chemicals call for a 15-minute lavage when the eyes are exposed.

Flushing the eyes and mucous membranes after a blood exposure is not covered under 1910.151(c). Instead, the U.S. Public Health Service, NIOSH, and OSHA say to “irrigate eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigants.” There is no time requirement for the lavage.

So what is the point? If you have unplumbed or bottled water eyewash stations—which many medical and dental practices seem to inquire about through the OSHA hotline—make sure staff members know to use them for blood exposures, and document that training in the exposure control plan.

Also, never allow eyewash stations as a substitute for wearing personal protective
equipment. Eyewash stations are for emergency use only.


Please clarify- is rinsing the eyepiece of the faucet mounted eyewash recommended – i.e. rinsing eypiece with a 10% bleach solution, then flushing for 15secs before replacing? It isn’t in the manufacturer’s instruction or I couldn’t find in ANSI, but was brought to my attention again as part of the preventive maintenance of the eye piec uni per OSHA? thank you

You are correct; disinfecting eye caps on emergency eyewash stations is not in the ANSI standard, but it is considered good infection control practices. The Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety recommends you disinfect eye caps with a 10% bleach solution, flush with water for 15 seconds, and then replace the eye caps. Do this once a week during the eyewash station maintenance check.

By Randy Iamurri on March 16th, 2009 at 9:25 am

1.Is their a required size of piping to a emergency eyewash and shower station?
2.Should the feed water line to the eye wash station require some type of pressure regulator?would a ball valve work ?

Thank you Randy

By T. Mabalon on April 21st, 2009 at 7:40 pm

If the eye wash station can not be “dedicated” due to space issues, particularly at the smaller sites, what other options are there? Please clarify, if the water temp should be in tepid per ANSI, we’ve been instructed not to shut off the hot water? In this case, we need to train/ document each enmployee on the use of the eyewash – is this sufficient?

Does a single use water line have to be used? If not, what does dedicated water line refer to?


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