Facility Safety

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When & where to install an eyewash or shower

September 1, 2011
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Did you know that OSHA has two different types of regulations, general and specific, that apply to emergency shower and eyewash station equipment designed to promote eye safety under certain work conditions?

The first is a general requirement for emergency showers and eyewash stations. The second focuses on hazards surrounding specific applications found in general industry.

This article will discuss when emergency eyewash and body drenching facilities are required as well as outline the ANSI requirements that surround placement of, testing and maintenance of such products.

Corrosive chemicals

OSHA requirements for emergency eyewashes and showers are found in 29 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 1910.151(c), which states: “Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.”

Although OSHA regulations specify that emergency eyewash and shower equipment must be available, they do not specify minimum operating requirements or installation setup requirements.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has developed a standard (Z358.1) to address these requirements. Therefore, OSHA often refers employers to the ANSI Z358.1 standard as a recognized source of guidance for emergency body and face flushing requirements created to protect employees who may be exposed to injurious corrosive chemicals.

If a facility stores or handles corrosive chemicals and there is a risk of chemical exposure to the eyes, body, skin or face, the facility may be required to install an emergency eyewash, eye and face wash or emergency shower. OSHA defines a corrosive as, “A chemical that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in, living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact.”(29 CFR 1910.1200, Appendix A) Corrosive chemicals generally have a very low pH (acid) or a very high pH (base). Chemical exposure risk should be determined without considering the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as clothing, goggles, gloves, or face shields. However, the employer must provide adequate PPE when the potential for exposure to corrosive chemicals exist.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are an excellent reference for information on the corrosiveness of chemicals you may have in your workplace and are a required part of a facility’s Hazard Communication Program as defined by 29 CFR 1910.1200. The health hazard section of the MSDS should indicate the chemical’s properties and if that chemical could cause burns to the skin, corneal damage to the eyes, blindness or other eye damage. The first aid section of the MSDS may refer to exposure treatment for possible chemical to eye contact to require one to flush immediately with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Another source of information regarding the corrosive properties of chemicals is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.

6 at-risk environments

In addition to general requirements, OSHA has also adopted eyewash and shower regulations applicable to specific workplace environments. OSHA specifically addresses the following:

1. Battery handling areas: “Facilities for quick drenching of the eyes and body shall be provided within 25 feet (7.62 meters) of battery handling areas.” (29 CFR 1926.441(a)(6))

2. Changing and charging storage batteries for powered industrial trucks such as fork trucks and platform lifts. 29 CFR 1910.178(g)(2) states: “Facilities shall be provided for flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte…” However, battery charging areas where powered industrial truck batteries are charged only — no maintenance is performed, batteries are not removed from the trucks and no electrolyte is present in the area — are not subject to this requirement. (OSHA Directive Number STD 01-11-004)

3. Pulp, paper, and paperboard mills are subject to requirements of 29 CFR 1910.261(g)(18)(i), which states: “Quick operating showers, bubblers, etc., shall be available for emergency use in case of caustic soda burns.”

4. Battery handling in the telecommunications industry. 29 CFR 1910.268(b)(2)(i) states: “Facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided unless the storage batteries are of the enclosed type and equipped with explosion proof vents, in which case sealed water rinse or neutralizing packs may be substituted for the quick drenching or flushing facilities.”

5. Dipping and coating operations: an emergency shower and eyewash station is required close to the operations. (29 CFR 1910.124(g)(2))

6. Storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia. 29 CFR 1910.111(b)(10)(iii) states: “Stationary storage installations shall have an easily accessible shower or a 50-gallon drum of water.”

Selection, location, inspection & maintenance

Once a hazard assessment has indicated the need for eye or eye/face drenching or body drenching facilities, follow specific guidelines to make sure the emergency facilities you select meet minimum requirements and are placed, inspected and maintained according to standards.

OSHA defers to the ANSI Z358.1 standard for the requirements of all portable and plumbed emergency eye, eye/face wash and emergency shower equipment. This includes construction, testing, water pressure, flow requirements, location, operation and maintenance, among others. There will be an ANSI approval marked on the equipment to show that the manufacturer’s product meets ANSI specifications.

ANSI Standard 358.1-2009 specifically states that “emergency eyewash and shower equipment shall be located on the same level as the hazard, have un-obstructed access (a door is considered an obstruction), and require not more than 10 seconds to reach.” Flow rates for emergency eyewash and emergency eye and face wash as well as emergency showers are set forth in the ANSI 358.1-2009. Proper flow rates, activation time and duration (usually 15 minutes of continuous flow of water) are also outlined in this ANSI standard.

Testing and maintenance is often the most overlooked requirement when it comes to relying on your emergency drenching system. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction regarding the care, cleaning and inspection of emergency equipment.

For more information, contact a trusted safety supplier that offers a trained technical support staff that can help you make the best selection based on your facility’s needs.

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