Many in the jan/san industry believe that eyewash stations are only necessary for industrial locations where powerful or potentially dangerous chemicals are used. That is not the case. Eye injuries, of which there are approximately 300,000 annually in the U.S., can occur in just about any work setting.
“In fact, cleaning workers suffer more eye injuries than workers in many other industries,” says Dennis Knapp is Director of Product Development for Impact Products, a leading manufacturer of safety tools and equipment. “Typically, these are the result of chemicals, dust, or grit entering the eye.”
To protect workers’ eyes, the following information is what jan/san professionals need to know:
1. Seconds. The first few seconds after an accident are critical. Victims of an eye injury should be able to reach some type of eyewash station within 10 seconds, the equivalent of about 55 feet.
2. Minutes. If a built-in eyewash station is installed, eyes should be rinsed for five minutes for non-chemical irritants; 15 to 20 minutes for more severe or chemical-related accidents; up to 60 minutes if the worker’s eyes are exposed to strong alkalis such as sodium or calcium hydroxide.
3. Open and rotate. The worker should hold their eyelids open and rotate their eyeballs in all directions.
4. Repeat. If irritation persists, repeat the process.
5. No shower. Injured workers should not take a shower. A conventional shower can exert too much pressure on the eyes and cause further damage.
6. Face and eyes. Note that eyewash cleaning solutions are for the face and eyes only. They are not designed for head or skin rinsing.
7. Visible. Eyewash stations or solutions should be easily visible, on the same floor, and near an emergency exit.
8. Report. All eye injuries, as with most work-related injuries, must be reported to management.
9. Eyewash fluids. Managers can also install supplemental eyewash “plastic stations” to be used until a worker is brought to an emergency center. These are specially designed plastic bottles filled with saline solution. Select bottles that have a “wide-mouth” to help cover the entire eye when used
10. You decide. In some cases, the worker may want to go back to work after using an installed or plastic eye washing station. This is a management decision, not the worker’s. It is usually best that the worker visit an emergency center to be sure their eyes have not sustained damage and that they are okay to return to work.