We get lots of reader mail from folks looking for information about eyewash stations, and what OSHA and other accreditation agencies require from healthcare facilities. Healthcare compliance consultant Brad Keyes, CHSP, attempts to explain the complex world of eyewash stations.
When and where are eyewash stations required in a healthcare facility? This is one of the more frequent issues with which healthcare professionals struggle. There is a tendency to place these stations nearly everywhere, but in reality there aren’t as many locations that require eyewash stations as one may think.
Eyewash stations are required wherever there is a possibility that caustic or corrosive chemicals could splash into an individual’s eye. It is important to note that blood and body fluids are not considered to be caustic or corrosive. It is also important to note that the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face shields, glasses or goggles does not exempt a facility from its need for an eyewash station.
Here are some recommendations on evaluating your existing eyewash stations for compliance:
- In a healthcare setting, eyewash stations are typically found where cleaning chemicals are mixed (such as housekeeping areas), where plant operations take place, and in kitchens, generator rooms, environmental services storage rooms for battery-powered floor scrubbers, in-house laundries, dialysis mixing rooms, and laboratories. Find out whether a risk assessment has been conducted to determine the need for eyewash stations.
- All required eyewash stations must be the plumbed type, which can operate in one second or less. This means the faucet-mounted type that requires turning the hot water lever and the cold water lever and then pulling a center lever is not permitted.
- Access to the eyewash station must be within 10 seconds (or 55 feet) of the hazard. The individual seeking an eyewash station may travel through one door to get to an eyewash station, provided the door does not have a lock on it and swings toward the eyewash station.
- If an eyewash station is observed outside of an area where one is typically needed, ask the staff who work in the area why it is there. See if they have a risk assessment that requires it to be there. Advise them that if there is no valid reason for the eyewash station to be there, it can be removed, which may save them the time and resources spent in maintaining it.
- Eyewash stations may need to have a mixing valve to maintain a flow of water in the 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit range. Ask to see the risk assessment to determine whether a mixing valve is required.
- Every eyewash station needs to be tested weekly by flowing water to clear any sediment and bacteria. There is no requirement regarding how long the water must flow. Every eyewash station must be inspected annually to determine whether the eyewash station still conforms to the installation parameters. The weekly test and annual inspections must be documented.
- The presence of eyewash bottles indicates someone in the organization decided it was needed. Investigate and ask why the bottles are located there. Determine whether they need a plumbed eyewash station within 10 seconds’ travel time (or 55 feet) of the perceived hazard. Check the expiration date on the bottles.
Always check with your state and local authorities to determine whether they have any additional requirements.