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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates where eye wash stations are required and what standards they must meet. Eyewash stations are designed to be used in scientific labs or industrial areas where it's possible to accidentally get volatile chemicals in the eye. Maintaining an eyewash station to OSHA compliance standards is not simply a matter of following the rules, but also a matter of safety for you and your co-workers.
The federally mandated OSHA requirements for eye wash stations are not the only regulations most labs or facilities will have to contend with. Many states, cities and academic institutes have their own sets of rules involving eyewash stations. Check your company's safety manual, which will often include all regulations. Other sources of regulatory information can be found by contacting a city ombudsman and having them connect you to the appropriate regulatory body.
Eye wash stations should be inspected annually alongside fire systems. Of course, this is only the comprehensive review. Eye wash stations should be held up to basic scrutiny every single week. Make sure to keep a log of weekly tests. Check water flow, clarity and ease of access.
Eyewash stations are not in place to allow more lax lab conditions to occur. For example, if an experiment or process would usually require safety glasses, the presence of an eyewash station should never be seen as an indication that safety glasses are not needed. Lab coats, safety glasses, helmets, proper wafting techniques and all other safety regulations should be maintained, with the eyewash station designated for use only in extraordinary circumstances.
One of the most important factors in eye wash station use is ensuring continued accessibility. While stations were likely installed in a compliant manner, moved equipment or furniture can easily obscure access. Make sure that nothing impedes easy access to the stations. As a general rule, and often a matter of policy, eye wash stations should be within ten seconds of access from anywhere in the building or laboratory. Areas using more dangerous chemicals, such as caustic acids, are required to have an eye wash station immediately adjacent.
It may sound obvious, but an eye wash station is only useful if people know of its presence. Make sure to keep adequate signage leading to eye wash stations. All signs should be bright in color, with reflective tape or gloss. Signs should be dusted or polished to prevent lowered visibility. Finally, weekly inspections of eye wash stations should also inspect surrounding light bulbs to ensure the entire area surrounding the eye wash station is brightly lit.
Eye wash stations should all have several features in common. Any eye wash station not meeting these basic features should be replaced or fixed as soon as possible. First, eye wash stations must have the ability to flush out both eyes simultaneously. They should be gravity fed to ensure continued access during a power outage or other issue. The flow must be gentle enough to not damage eyes, but fast enough to provide .4 gallons of water per minute. Finally, all eye wash stations should continue operating automatically once activated. Once the device is on, it should require no additional pressure from the user.
Based in Seattle, Louie Doverspike has been a professional writer since 2004. His work has appeared in various publications, including "AntiqueWeek" magazine, the "Prague Post" and "Seattle Represent!" Doverspike holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hamilton College.