The Lonely Eyewash Station

By Karen L. Murphy, RDH, MAOM

It’s sad but true. The lonely eyewash station often goes unnoticed, unappreciated and unwanted. In fact, you may even have wondered at some point if your practice really needs one.

Medical and dental offices are laced with chemicals, airborne particles, fumes, dust and infectious materials. We fearlessly rely on our personal protective equipment, like goggles, masks and face shields, as if they are armor. Unfortunately, they are not.

Eyewash stations are good to have in the event of an emergency exposure; but in fact, OSHA does not require that every facility have an eyewash station.

According to OSHA, an emergency eyewash station is required if employees’ eyes or faces might be exposed to corrosive materials. Refer to Safety Data Sheets to learn which chemicals you use are a corrosive hazard. Look for the corrosive pictogram to be sure.

Even if you do not have corrosives in your facility, having an eyewash station is a smart choice.

The important thing to remember is that if you have an eyewash station, even if you are not required to, you must follow the rules.

Stations must be accessible within 10 seconds, 100 yards of the location where the chemicals are being used.

A sign must be posted near or above the eyewash station reading “Eyewash.” Remove any old signage from areas where an eyewash station may have been in the past.

Eye wash stations must have eye piece covers that fall off when the water is activated. Dust and dirt can clog the eye pieces if they are not kept clean and covered.

Stations should be temperature controlled. Tepid water is recommended.

The unit must provide hands free operation after activation, so water runs freely.

Having the right location, signage and setup is important, but to ensure that the unit remains operational, weekly tests are advisable.  Flush to rinse out bacteria that tends to collect in the lines. Activate the eyewash station to flush the eye pieces with water 3-5 minutes. Make sure it is installed tightly. Check the water pressure.  Record test results in a maintenance log. Forms are available in the Forms section of your OSHA manual.

Choose an eyewash station that properly fits the faucet it is mounted to and fits the needs of your facility.

Make sure your eyewash station is installed correctly and in the best location. If the water flows away from the user when activated, it may be installed backwards. Make sure there is sufficient head room to properly use the station. Often upper cabinets are too low for eyewash station accessibility. Make sure there is enough water pressure and flow to operate efficiently. Check for clogged filter screens on the faucet. Do not use eyewash stations in contaminated sinks due to possible splashes.

Use safety caps on any unused electrical outlet that is within 6 feet of a water source, like an eyewash station and sink. Move away electrical appliances, computers, etc. Using an eyewash station can get messy!