Many chemicals, such as acids and bases, are corrosive and can easily damage employees’ skin and eyes. The severity of damage depends on how strong the chemical is, how long contact is maintained, and what actions are taken after contact is made. The first 10 – 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance are critical. Delaying treatment may cause serious injury. Eye wash stations and safety showers provide on-the-spot decontamination, allowing employees to flush away hazardous substances that can cause injury.
- Know what chemicals you are working with and their specific physical and health hazards.
- Know what personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used when working with these materials, including protective devices for the eye.
- A job hazard analysis can provide an evaluation of the potential hazards on the job.
- Check the safety data sheet (SDS) for information about exposure prevention and response procedures.
- Follow proper hazard identification procedures, such as warning signs near hazardous substances.
- Follow all storage and separation requirements, such as keeping acids and bases apart.
- Follow proper container use and labeling requirements.
- Work areas where employees are exposed to hazardous and corrosive chemicals include the following:
- Automotive service stations
- Spray operations
- Facilities with hazardous chemicals
- High tech manufacturing
Eye wash station basics:
- Eye wash stations must be in accessible locations that only take 10 seconds to reach or are 25 feet away. They must not be through doorways that require opening.
- Eyewash apparatuses must have an on/off pedal or valve that activates within one second by a single motion.
- Eyewash stations must be located in areas free of obstacles.
- Flush the affected area for at least 15 minutes, or as specified on the SDS, using a large supply of clean water under low pressure.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Employees must be trained on eye wash station function.
- Assure proper maintenance with frequent and recorded testing of eye wash stations weekly.
- Detailed inspections need to include fluid flow test, unit functionality, and a physical inspection of the unit. In addition, lines are to be cleaned to prevent sedimentation buildup.
Safety shower basics:
- Safety showers must be in fixed work areas where large portions of skin may be exposed to corrosive or toxic chemicals.
- As with eye washes, showers must have a sustained water flow of 15 minutes. The flow must remain on without the use of hands.
- Showers must remain uncluttered, clean, and sanitary.
- If a skin exposure occurs, active the shower and then have employees remove PPE and clothing.
- Employees must be trained on operating these stations during facilities orientation.
- Locations must be identified with appropriate signage.
Emergency eye washes and showers must be free of clutter and accessible by employees at all times.