Inspection & Maintenance for Portable Eye Wash Stations

Inspection & Maintenance for Portable Eye Wash Stations

What are the inspection and maintenance criteria for portable eyewash stations?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) created industry standard ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 in 1981 as a means of establishing minimum performance and use requirements for emergency eyewash and shower equipment. It’s a comprehensive guideline outlining specific parameters for the appropriate design, installation, performance, certification, use and maintenance of all types of emergency eyewash and shower equipment across various industries.  

ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 compliance with requires rigorous and regular testing to ensure that proper functioning equipment is always available in an emergency response situation. ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 was revised in 2014, and the most current revision included minor specifications for the design, manufacture and installation of emergency locations, as well as the location and accessibility of safety equipment and adjusted measurements.  

OSHA regulations call out and address emergency eyewash and shower equipment response requirements in 29 CFR 1910.151. Specifically, OSHA 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.” A key emphasis should be placed on the terms “suitable” and “immediate” as those are of vital importance when procuring, planning and maintaining emergency equipment. 

In 2016, OSHA fines for non-compliance increased 80 percent, putting violations for inadequate eyewash and shower equipment at risk of penalties exceeding $100,000. It’s critical to understand that compliance isn’t an annual or monthly responsibility, compliance is a requirement that must be continuously observed for the safety of employees and facility staff. Fines should not be the only motivation for compliance.  

ANSI Standards make no distinction between remote locations and permanent installations, in terms of required response times, procedures and available treatment facilities. That means unimpeded access to emergency drench showers and eyewashes within ten seconds, equipment capable of providing 15-minute drench and/or irrigation cycles, tepid water and more.  

Remote jobsite work often involves increased risk of injury because workers are in an unfamiliar environment and much of the control they have back at the shop is sacrificed out on the road. Weather elements, like wind and rain, can increase injury potential. So, too, can poor lighting and exposure to someone else’s jobsite shortcuts. In the face of an often more dangerous overall environment, the emergency response equipment typically available on a remote jobsite is usually not as good as that found in more permanent settings.  

The standard is the most effective way to ensure that workers are protected from eye, face and body injuries resulting from corrosive materials in workplace incidents such as spills, splashes and blown particulates. Simply put, properly functioning equipment must be readily available at all times, including portable eye wash stations.  

What are the requirements for portable eyewashes? Portable eyewash stations must meet every requirement that a normal plumbed eyewash has to meet, with exception to the weekly testing. The weekly testing of a portable eyewash station is done a bit differently since activation isn't required. When referencing an ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 checklist, just follow all the requirements for an eyewash.  

What are the weekly and annual inspection requirements for a self-contained eyewash station? Weekly inspection of the self-contained eyewash station only consists of a visual inspection to ensure that the tank is still full according to the manufacturer's requirements, typically a fill line is included on the equipment. It is also beneficial if the tester opens the tank during the weekly inspection to check for growth or debris, especially if a bacteriostatic preservative or cleansing stick isn't being used to maintain the water.  

What are the required lengths of time for portable eye wash stations to meet ANSI compliance and OSHA regulations? Portable eye wash stations are required to run for a minimum of 15 minutes. The length of time is determined by the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the substance. Fifteen minutes is the bare minimum. Some substances require up to 45 minutes. OSHA doesn’t stipulate a time; ANSI only ensures that the equipment is minimally capable of delivering 15 minutes of flushing.  

What is needed to provide fieldwork employees (e.g., pest control technicians) who work in the field to ensure they are protected? Fieldwork is always a difficult topic to cover because it’s a challenge to have emergency first aid equipment everywhere. A pressurized or gravity fed portable option on fieldwork vehicles to help ensure access to 15 minutes of flushing water is an ideal option.  

How do you provide tepid water to a portable eyewash station? A facility can provide either a hot and cold-water line using a mixing valve, or an instantaneous hot water heater set to a temperature limit nearby. If you have tepid water in your lines, you can supply it using that option. And while the ANSI/ISEA standard gives a temperature range, it’s best to take into consideration victim comfort and try to provide water as near as possible to 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  

How safe are portable eyewash stabilizers? The bacteriostatic preservatives and mixes that are used in cleansing bottles and sticks are designed to be entirely non-hazardous to humans. Bacteriostatic preservatives are concentrates, though, and will sting if poured directly into the eye rather than diluted in water and then used. Ensure you follow the instructions.  

Can eyewash bottles be placed in the immediate area of the hazard to get an employee to a plumbed eyewash/shower if the eyewash/shower is further than 55 feet or not in a direct line? Eyewash bottles can be and should be placed immediately adjacent to the hazard, but it does not extend the maximum distance of 55 feet. The intent is to get first aid measures started en route to the primary equipment.  

Where is the verbiage that states that the portable eye wash stations are also required for 15 minutes? ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014 section 6.4.5 requires a minimum period of 15 minutes. The SDS for the substance will communicate the total time required, whether 15 minutes or more.  

Which equipment is best? Do you need portable eye wash stations, emergency showers, eye/face washes or combination units? This can be a reasonably challenging question. Consider the hazardous materials in use as well as the access to potable water. If large portions of the body could be exposed to hazardous materials, a shower is indicated. In smaller scale incidents, a single drop of caustic material would probably require an eyewash. Likewise, many airborne contaminants might irritate the eyes only, again with an eyewash being the answer. It is always a good idea to also reference your SDS to fully understand the types of materials and their consequences of exposure so you can make sure you have selected the right equipment.  

Today, many businesses in many diverse industries rely on remote operations for construction, maintenance, materials harvesting and other functions. And, those remote locations typically have increased levels of injury risk, while often being served by less-than-optimal emergency response equipment.  

There are no prerequisites or certification requirements for personnel to conduct safety equipment testing. A full understanding of the installation and performance requirements is essential. Equipment manufacturers offer various training tools to ensure company personnel can become subject matter experts, capable of properly conducting tests. Today, many companies also have third-party inspections performed annually, which offer a level of credibility and assurance to the review process.  

Keep in mind that worker protection should be a priority in every safety plan. It’s not enough to simply provide emergency showers and eyewashes. Creating facility maps, making full testing kits readily available and conducting periodic training classes can also help streamline the process. Inspecting, testing and monitoring equipment readiness and performance is the key to optimal response and a safer workplace.  

Safety is everyone’s job, and the workplace has the responsibility to ensure that environments always meet current standards with all types of equipment. 

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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