By Nancy Chobin, RN, AAS, ACSP, CSPM
Q: I was at a conference recently and the speaker said that emergency eyewash stations are needed at all locations where chemicals are used. Can you provide more information on this?
A: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has a standard, American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, Z358.1-2014. This document “establishes minimum performance and use requirements for eyewash and shower equipment” for anyone whose eyes or body have been exposed to hazardous materials or chemicals. This standard is also an excellent reference for “performance and use requirements for personal wash units and drench hoses, which are considered supplemental to emergency eyewash and shower equipment.”
Since your question focuses on emergency eyewash stations, this discussion will only focus on those.
There are two types of emergency eyewashes; plumbed units (connected to a water source) and self-contained (has its own supply of water). The self-contained type must deliver a minimum of 1.5 liters per minute (0.4 gallons per minute (gpm) over a 15-minute period while the plumbed type must deliver 11.4 liters per minute (3.0 gpm) over the same period of time. The design should permit hands-free operation and flush both eyes at the same time. The water temperature should be in the range of 60 to 100 degrees F. to avoid any potential damage to ocular tissue. The bottle-type eyewash units are not acceptable because they do not meet the criteria as established by ANSI.
The eyewash must be in an accessible location that requires no more than 10 seconds (or 55 feet) of travel time to reach it. It should be “located on the same level as the hazard and the path of travel shall be free of obstructions that may inhibit its immediate use.” However, when there is an emergency and the eyewash is needed, the individual is most likely in a distressed state. The location of the eyewash should not create another hazard (i.e. tripping or falling). There should not be any shelving units or cabinets immediately overhead to avoid injury when using the eyewash.
According to ANSI Z358.1-2014, “A door is considered to be an obstruction. Where the hazard is not corrosive, one intervening door can be present so long as it opens in the same direction of travel as the person attempting to reach the emergency eyewash and shower equipment and the door is equipped with a closing mechanism that cannot be locked to impede access to the equipment.”
The unit should be designed so that any nozzles or flushing units are protected from contaminates (i.e. caps). The caps or other protective devices should “pop” off or be easily removed without the user having to physically remove them.
Additional requirements include:
- The location of the eyewash should be identified with a highly visible sign and the area should be well-lit.
- Employees should be trained in the location, use and testing of emergency eyewash stations per the manufacturer’s written instructions.
- Eyewashes should be tested at least weekly for efficacy. The unit should be turned on and allowed to run for 15 minutes or as directed by the manufacturer.
- While testing the unit, verify the water temperature using a thermometer.
- Ensure the protective caps are on the unit; if missing they must be replaced.
- Document the testing on a log form, including the water temperature. If the unit fails the testing, the action taken should also be documented on the log formNOTE: In many facilities, another department (i.e. maintenance) performs the testing. You should make sure the testing is performed.
- The self-contained units should be visually checked weekly to ensure there is sufficient water volume or if the solution needs to be changed. This should be performed in accordance with the manufacture’s written instructions for use.
- Installation of the eyewash should be in compliance with the manufacturer as well as ANSIZ358.1, 2014.
In the processing areas, an eyewash station is needed:
- in the decontamination area or wherever cleaning chemicals are used
- wherever high level disinfectants or liquid chemical sterilants are used
- in the sterilization area if low temperature sterilization methods are used; i.e., low temperature gas plasma, ethylene oxide, etc.
Safety in the workplace is paramount. Federal law and professional standards should always be followed to ensure a safe environment. It is the responsibility of the facility to purchase and install the required equipment. Users should be thoroughly trained with competencies verified on the use and testing of such equipment.
Nancy Chobin, RN, AAS, ACSP, CSPM, is a sterile processing consultant and educator.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has a standard, American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, Z358.1-2014.
Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), Comprehensive Guide to Steam Sterilization and Sterility Assurance in Health Care Facilities (ST-58), 2013, Section 3.3.8.