Why do you have (or not have) a plumbed eyewash station on this unit?” Due to an increased focus on hazardous materials, a facilities manager has likely encountered this question during an accreditation survey. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 29 CFR 1910.151(c) requires that suitable facilities shall be provided in any instance where the eyes may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials. But what constitutes a suitable facility for eye flushing? Are wall-mounted bottles “suitable?” The answer is a simple “no.” 

Suitable facilities are defined by ANSI Z358.1, Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment; therefore, a facility should have a plumbed eyewash station, located within 10 seconds (or 55 feet) of the hazard, capable of providing 15 minutes of continuous flushing fluid to the eyes, where there is a risk of an injurious corrosive exposure to the eyes.

This seems simple; however, how does a facilities manager assess the risk and make the determination of when a plumbed eyewash station is necessary and when it is not necessary? The answer is to perform a risk assessment. 

So, they must start with the basics. Do staff use products that pose a risk of splashing into the eyes? If no, they pass “Go” and document that a plumbed eyewash station is not necessary (do not collect $200). If, however, they do use products that are a risk of splashing into the eyes, they must review the OSHA requirements and the Safety Data Sheet to determine if the product falls into any of the following risk categories: 

  • Is corrosive (40 CFR 262122(1)).
  • Can cause irreversible eye damage.
  • Contains ≥0.1% of formaldehyde (29 CFR 1910.1048).
  • Contains ≥0.1% of methylene chloride, (29 CFR 1910.1052).
  • Contains an OSHA-defined carcinogen (Ethyleneimine or beta-Propiolactone (29 CFR 1910.1003).

This seems like a daunting proposition; however, facilities managers can use a straightforward process to document this assessment. They can evaluate each product against this criteria by using a documented tool that can be found by visiting the website in the link at left. The requirement to install an ANSI-compliant plumbed eyewash station is triggered if a product meets any one of the criteria. 

If facilities managers determine that they are required to install a plumbed eyewash station, they should carefully evaluate the ANSI Z358.1 requirements for installation, weekly inspection and annual maintenance criteria to ensure that their health care facility meets minimum requirements.