In your eyes – the light, the heat … the chemicals?

By: January 13th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

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.

Editor’s note: This post by Steve MacArthur, safety consultant for The Greeley Company, originally appeared in Mac’s Safety Space, January 11.



By Carol Hutchinson on January 13th, 2012 at 11:07 am

In our clinic we have 4 eyewash stations. As Laboratory Supervisor I check the eyewash stations myself. One of those things that, if I do it myself, I know it gets done.
Our eyewash fixtures are attached to faucets and the hot water is cut off. We have never had to use an eyewash so I do not know how uncomfortable the cold water would be for ones eyes. I believe we cannot have the hot water on as it might cause damage to the eyes. Are there guidelines for this?

According to ANSI/ISEA Z385.1-2009 revision the water must be tepid with 60F as the lower limit and 100F as the upper limit. We use a stick thermometer to test the water temp. hope this helps.

Every one of our eye wash stations are being replaced with plumbled eye wash stations with regulators that keep the water tepid. During our weekly function tests, if the temp is not in the “green zone” we send a work order to the plumber and it is fixed immediately! OSHA, ANSI, and CAP Gen 72500 require tepid water. A deficiency and fine could result, plus the possibility of nerve damage to the eyes using cold water.

By Steven Bradley on January 13th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I agree with Mr. MacArthur. The testing is best done by the staff who would need to use the device. In our labs the techs in the area perform the testing. We have them log the checks (for both eye washes and safety showers) and the logs are reviewed on a monthly basis. All of our eyewashes/safety showers are controled by mixing valves. Technically, according to ANSI standards the faucet mounted devices don’t qualify as an eyewash because they fail to meet the requirements (“shall go from ‘off’ to ‘on’ in 1 second or less”, the faucet knobs may not be “easy to locate and readily accessible to the user” if the person can’t see and they do not provide tepid (60 – 100 F) water).

By Peggy DeBacco on January 13th, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Can you give me a list of “injurious corrosive materials”? I know formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde are, but wonder what other commonly used hospital materials are included. We don’t use the above at the facility I consult for, so don’t think it falls under this regulation. See below.
Standard 29 CFR 1910.15l(c) calls for eye wash stations and showers to be placed in the work area where “an employee’s eyes or body could be exposed to injurious corrosive materials.” Thus, eye wash stations are not required in any area where materials are not considered “injurious corrosive” or where the material is sealed in a container.

By David LaHoda on January 13th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I doubt if there is one comprehensive list, given the variety of healthcare workplace hazardous chemicals. check your MSDSs to identify injurious corrosive materials.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Sharing the tasks of equipment checks and maintenance underscores that.

By PPE Question on January 13th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

The end users will only maintain competence in the equipment by using it themselves. If you have additional self contained units checking those are different than a plumbed in model and staff need to be aware of the differences.

I agree completely with you Steve. I had the same arguement with clinical staff with fire extinguisher monthly inspections. They said it was the building managements responsibility when I noticed it wasn’t being done during a site visit. These checks are done for the safety of our employees not the building management. We all must take ownership for our safety no matter who is “responsible” for it.

By Debra Stinchcomb on May 15th, 2012 at 7:20 am

I recently attended an OSHA inservice at an ambulatory surgery conference. We were told that eye wash stations had to be checked twice a week, rather than once. We were also told we needed to check for anesthesia gas levels in the PACU. I cannot find OSHA requirements stating either of these.
Can anyone assist me with confirming those requirements?


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