Every year thousands of eye injuries occur in the workplace. Throughout the past few years, stringent regulation and an ever-growing concern for the health and well-being of employees has brought advancements in processes, safety procedures, and first aid protocols to treat the injured. This movement has had a profound impact on emergency equipment, including eye irrigation.
During the first half of the 20th century, the commercial eyewash as we know it today was invented. Urban legend has it that the first “steady stream” eyewash was devised by an industrial plant manager. He was so concerned about his employees’ welfare that he adapted the use of two drinking fountain bubbler heads and valves mounted on opposing sides of a sink. When activated, the streams formed a double arch that aimed water from the outer perimeter of the sink to its center. An injured victim would place his face into the double streams and irrigate both eyes simultaneously.
It was a great concept and one that took the safety industry to a new level during the ensuing 50+ years. Except for one thing: Irrigating with streams that contact the eye at its outer canthus, or corner, and flow inward toward the nose is diametrically opposed to the way health care professionals irrigate eyes as well as how eyes irrigate themselves naturally.
Medical professionals irrigate eyes by introducing flushing fluid at the inner corners of the eyes, thereby sweeping contaminants outward and away from the sensitive lacrimal puncta, or ocular surface drains. Yet traditional eyewash designs actually sweep contaminants toward the inner corners where the lacrimal puncta are located. The eye’s lacrimal system is nature’s way of maintaining sufficient moisture around the eye. Any excess fluids in this area can be drained down into the nasal cavity via the lacrimal puncta.
For example, if a chemical is introduced into the eye, nature’s own cleansing mechanism can serve to force the contaminant into the nasal cavity where it can be breathed into the lungs or swallowed and potentially cause further damage to the already injured employee.
The alternative to the traditional eyewash streams is inverted water streams that will have first contact with the eyes at the inner corners of the eye. By reversing the direction of the eyewash streams, contaminants are swept away from the lacrimal puncta and pushed to the outer edge of the eye. This medically superior technique reduces the potential for further injury and completely flushes the eye of any dangerous impurities.
Many traditional eyewash streams also have a minimal water arc that creates a turbulent shot of water that is undesirable to any user. Turbulence or inconsistencies in the flow stream can strike the eye as a change in total pressure, making the victim much less comfortable with the process.
In contrast, effective eyewash streams are vertically oriented with a laminar flow. When eyewash streams are vertically oriented, they “stall” at a prescribed height providing a more comfortable eyewash experience. When the stream exhausts its vertical velocity, it softly turns outward and begins to fall off horizontally. This action causes a slight puddling of the flow in midair before it returns to the eyewash bowl. It occurs directly at the optimal contact point with the eye, making for a more pleasant irrigation experience.
Additionally, using an advanced laminar flow design in the eyewash streams results in a more streamlined flow with an absence of turbulence because the water stream is “built” in layers. The best approach is providing an even, comfortable, predict able stream height and circumference, accomplished by using zero vertical velocity and laminar flow design principles.
It has been reported that 38 percent of all injuries to the human body occur in or around the eyes, yet not all of these incidents happen in a situation where an eyewash station is in close enough proximity. Eye accidents are not limited to warehouses or manufacturing facilities and neither should the eyewash. By providing eyewash options in numerous locations throughout a facility or office building, safety managers will mitigate the risk of additional injuries that could arise because of the lack of efficient solutions.
Faucet-mounted eyewashes are an ideal answer for those not in an environment where heavy-duty eyewash units are practical because of space and aesthetic limitations. A low-profile, sturdy, compact, ANSI-compliant, faucetmounted eyewash provides eyewash options to a majority of the population that in years past have resorted to ineffective eye washing procedures, such as using hands to splash water in an injured eye. Because there are no protocols or options for flushing eyes in applications that do not have a standard eyewash, a faucet-mounted eyewash that is consistent with medical protocols provides an irrigation method that will successfully flush contaminants out of the eye.
Another important improvement is the adherence of an eyewash system to the ANSI Z358.1-2009 Standard revisions. The original ANSI Z358.1 Eyewash Standard was first implemented in 1981 with additional modifications in 1990, 1998 and 2004. While the changes to the standard were not drastic, they did address crucial points relating to temperature range for water delivery and eyewash testing requirements. The 2009 standard now specifies an exact temperature range to guarantee proper flushing. Tepid was not clearly outlined in previous revisions but is now defined as a flushing fluid conducive to promoting a minimum 15-minute irrigation period. That suitable range is 60-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The tepid requirement is important. It encourages users to complete the full 15-minute drench period which helps prevent chemical absorption, cool burns and prevents hypothermia. The standard also modified the eyewash flow verification procedures. The standard now mandates that when placing the testing gauge in the stream of the eyewash the flushing fluid shall cover the areas between the interior and exterior lines of the gauge at some point less than eight inches above the eyewash nozzle.
Protocols and practices of emergency equipment providers are changing. Irrigating eyes in a manner consistent with medical procedures is not only the right thing to do, but it also shows that physicians care about patients’ comfort and are proactive in their quest to employ the best techniques and products available. By providing progressive and innovative techniques, we are guaranteeing the increased safety of the workforce.