When it comes to emergency eyewash stations, installation is only the first step in meeting compliance standards. Employers who have installed eyewash stations have taken a responsible first step, however those efforts are wasted if the eyewash stations do not meet the rest of the standard. Is the unit free from obstructions that prohibit its usage? Is it regularly maintained to the standard? Is it located the proper distance from the hazard? Without a solid plan in place to monitor and maintain emergency eyewash stations to current standards, companies can find themselves out of compliance.

Best practices

A strong understanding of the standards and requirements coupled with a strong foundation for training and education to all employees in the work environment is an essential ingredient. It is important to determine if internal staff or outside consultants will be required to guide the development of a solid plan surrounding installation, education, training and maintenance of the eyewash units.

The Boeing Company, the world’s leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined, began its compliance initiative by selecting a sealed-cartridge portable unit as its emergency eyewash station of choice. Though the up-front cost was higher, the company realized that the cost of ownership over two years would be substantially lower because the units do not require frequent maintenance typical of other options. With the sealed-fluid style unit, Boeing has taken strong steps to simplify its efforts to remain compliant.

Having eyewash stations installed and properly maintained is the basis for a compliant eyewash program. The standard also requires that employees be fully trained in the use of stations. Boeing uses internal staff to develop the content of its training program and hires outside consultants to train company supervisors. Those supervisors are charged with training their direct reports. Using a blend of on-the-job training, computer-based learning and classroom instruction, Boeing is training more effectively, and its employees are retaining the information better than before. The company keeps a close eye on who completes the training and when those employees should be given review sessions.

Once all of the employees are trained, Boeing selects someone to champion the program — someone who puts safety first, understands the impacts of non-compliance and can be counted on to keep employees safe. At Boeing, this person is called a safety monitor and is charged with helping to maintain a safe work environment for her/his colleagues. This structure is successful because the safety monitors are not simply appointed from the outside to police work areas, but are coworkers of the employees in the area they oversee resulting in a higher commitment level and passion for helping to keep their colleagues safe.

Constantly checking

Boeing’s safety monitors oversee preventive maintenance. They are responsible for a monthly checklist to inspect portable units for fluid levels or to check solution expiry dates. In addition, they are looking for items that might be obstructing the eyewash stations. In the case of plumbed eyewash stations, the safety monitor is checking the flow rate of the water and whether the water is contaminated with sludge or rust. Part of the ANSI protocol requires checking plumbed stations weekly, and a surprising number of companies either are not aware of this or simply do not adhere to that simple requirement.

At Boeing there are three groups helping the company stay compliant. Maintenance employees conduct post-activation maintenance; safety monitors are responsible for preventive inspection; and Boeing’s union safety committee tours all of the company’s plants over a one-year span serving as an extra check to ensure that safety checks are getting done.

Boeing has built a safety program that works for its needs, with the critical thread of multiple layers of checks and balances. Like Boeing, organizations must familiarize themselves with the ANSI standards, inform and train employees and try different methods for creating a workforce that takes responsibility for safety and makes it a top priority.

With specific tactics and strategies in place, and employees who understand the dangers of their job and know what to do should an emergency occur, companies can achieve compliance and, most importantly, keep their employees safe. Whether building a safety program for a leading global manufacturer or for a hospital laboratory, ANSI compliance is becoming a more manageable process. By drawing on the experiences of other companies and taking advantage of the various types of eyewash stations available today, companies can meet legal requirements and create a customized program that becomes more of an opportunity for increased safety and efficiency rather than a cumbersome legal obligation to fulfill.

Careful planning

As with any safety program, the step to an effective eyewash compliance program requires careful planning:
  • select the proper equipment;
  • install and maintain that equipment in the proper manner;
  • train workers in the proper use of equipment.
Boeing is a great example of how large multi-facility companies can tailor a world-class compliance program to fit their needs. For smaller companies, the choices and rules can seem confusing. But help is as close as the telephone. Most distributors and many manufacturers are happy to help set up an eyewash compliance program.

Christine L. Mello is product manager, Fend-all® Brand Products, Bacou-Dalloz. Richard Birkhold is national product sales manager, Eye & Face Brands, Bacou-Dalloz.