Time is of the essence with eye injuries. Toxic substances, when in contact with the eye, immediately begin to damage sensitive eye tissues. The longer hazardous materials remain in the eye, the more severe the damage. Beside tissue damage, acids and alkali can change the pH in the eye itself (and could lead to serious eye injury, including blindness). It’s imperative to begin flushing immediately after the eye comes in contact with a harmful substance…the first ten seconds are critical.

The ANSI Z358.1 - 2004 Standard mandates 15-minute primary eyewash devices “shall be in accessible locations that require no more than 10 seconds to reach.” Studies have shown that there are significant differences in the outcome of chemically burned eyes that received prompt irrigation compared with those that did not undergo immediate flushing. In cases where eyes were flushed promptly, patients required less surgery, had shorter hospital stays and made a more rapid recovery.

Most common hazards to be aware of that require 15-minute eye flushing units include, but are not limited to:

  • Painting operations & solvents;
  • Battery charging stations;
  • Tool parts washers;
  • Laboratories;
  • Hazardous chemical storage;
  • Chemical pumping and/or mixing area.

Standard says…

Important components of the ANSI Z358.1 – 2004 standard to be aware of include:

  • 15-minute primary eyewash devices must be immediately adjacent to severe caustic and chemical hazards.

  • Eyewash units must be located on the same level as the hazard. The path of travel must be free of obstructions to allow the injured to get to the eyewash station within the required ten seconds.

  • Injured must be capable of activating the unit with one single motion.

  • Emergency eyewash stations must deliver flushing solutions to both eyes at a minimum flow rate of 0.4 gallons (1.5 liters) per minute for 15 minutes. The immediacy of irrigation is the critical component, provided that the volume and flow pattern are sufficient to flush completely in and around the eye.

  • Eyewash units must be capable of delivering fluid within one second of the unit being activated while also remaining open for the complete 15-minute flushing duration.

  • Tepid temperature is required of all flushing solutions.

  • Eyewash station location should be identified with proper signage calling the unit out to those working with or around the hazardous substance.

    In a recent release by OSHA, the list of top General Industry violations was published in its summary compilation for 2004. First Aid – Eye Wash/Emergency Shower Availability and Proximity - ranked number five on the list.

    Therefore, it is critical to understand the ANSI Z358.1-2004 standard in detail and ensure that your facility is not one of those in violation. Visit www.ansi.org for more complete and comprehensive ANSI Z358.1-2004 details.

    And also, don’t forget the importance of continuous irrigation after the 15-minute flush. Continuous irrigation should continue until the injured person is under the supervision of a medical professional. Personal devices such as a bottle of eyewash are satisfactory for this application during transport, but remember, full primary 15-minute flushing units are still the on-site requirement.