OHS Canada Magazine

Overtime

Spring Cleaning? Don’t Forget to Check Your Eyewash


When spring is in the air, as temperatures begin to rise and as days get longer, it’s a great time to spring-clean your facility. Feedback from the Treen Safety team says that they frequently encounter facilities that are unsure of how often they are required to clean and maintain their eyewash stations and first-aid supplies. In many cases, a lot of effort and care is taken in the initial planning and setup of eyewash stations and first-aid rooms, but the care and maintenance once installed can be overlooked.

An eyewash bottle that has expired and is coated in a layer of dust is going to be of little use in an emergency. And if you have to use an eyewash station in an emergency, you won’t be able to see very well! Consumable first-aid inventory, such as band-aids and bandages, has a tendency to deplete quickly and should therefore be checked frequently.

Eyewash stations and first-aid rooms should be clean and well-stocked at all times in case of an accident. One person in your work area should be responsible for inspecting and operating emergency showers, eyewash stations and first-aid supplies weekly. This will make sure that you have the necessary supplies, there is clean flushing fluid available and the area is tidy, organized and free of dust.

When performing your weekly check, also ensure that the eyewash station is easily identifiable and unobstructed. Your designated maintenance person should keep a signed and dated safety record. There is signage that can be purchased, or even something as simple as a sticker or label that would show when the bottle was last changed out and by whom is a good indicator. The ANSI standard also recommends a complete inspection on an annual basis – daylight savings time is a great time to do this.

Portable, self-contained eyewash stations have a limited amount of fluid. Maintenance is therefore critical to ensure that units are fully charged at all times. The agents used to control bacterial growth are effective for limited periods of time. Small amoebae capable of causing serious eye infections have been found in portable and stationary eyewash stations. Consequently, it is important to monitor the shelf life of the solution and replace the solution when it has expired. Generally, eyewash has a two-to-three-year shelf life from the time of manufacture; always check the product’s MSDS sheets for WHMIS information. Once the seal is broken on an eyewash bottle, it has a six-month expiry. Eyewash must be discarded once used – it is for single use only.

Why is it important to check your eyewash stations?
The first 10 to 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance, especially a corrosive substance, are critical. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury. Your eyewash station needs to be easy to access, clean and ready for operation at all times.

Plumbed eyewash stations vs. portable, self-contained eyewash stations
For emergency showers and eyewash stations to be effective, the ANSI standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment (ANSI Z358.1-2009) recommends that the affected body part must be flushed immediately and thoroughly for at least 15 minutes using a large supply of clean fluid under low pressure. Water does not neutralize contaminants — it only dilutes and washes them away. This is why large amounts of water are needed.

Portable self-contained eyewash stations, such as the Fendall Porta Stream II, are designed to deliver flushing fluid immediately and can be used while transporting the victim to the permanent eyewash station or medical facility. These stations do not replace the requirement to have a 15-minute-supply eyewash station. Portable stations are also good for rinsing dust and particulates from the eyes.

Treen Safety is a Vancouver-based company specializing in health, safety and protective equipment. The Treen Team works with a diverse mixture of organizations throughout British Columbia to help them get their workers home safely.