Do you need an eyewash station at your worksite?

Mar 19, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

Eye injuries in the workplace are very common and occur when chemicals or foreign objects enter the eye area.  

Eye injuries can be very dangerous (particularly when they involve hazardous chemicals), can result in progressive tissue damage, permanent blindness, or even death. This blog outlines a three step process for determining if your workplace needs eyewash facilities, (then if you do) where they should be installed.

Step 1: Conduct a risk assessment

The first step in determining if you need emergency eyewash equipment is to conduct a risk assessment. A risk assessment will identify and assesses the chemical hazards or work processes  that could expose a worker’s eyes to hazardous materials. As an example, your hazard identification chart could look something like this:

 

Area Possible source of Hazard How could eyes be exposed?

Small flammable liquids store

Containers of unleaded petrol and 2-stroke oil for the garden maintenance equipment (mower, hedge trimmer, brush cutter).

Eyes splashed when refuelling, scratching or rubbing eyes with contaminated hands/PPE, tripping over when carrying fuel, equipment malfunction.

Laboratory

Hydrochloric Acid used in laboratory experiments.

Splashing, scratching or rubbing eyes with contaminated hands/PPE, uncontrolled chemical reaction, equipment malfunction.

 

PLEASE NOTE: These are simple examples for demonstrating a process and are not intended as specific risk controls.

 

Once you’ve identified the hazards you will then need to assess the severity of each hazard and what control measures could be put in place to bring the risk to your workers to an acceptable level. One of the mistakes made by many workplaces is immediately assuming that an eyewash station is a hazard control measure, when actually it is a piece of first aid equipment.

An eyewash station will not defend work areas against flying particles or chemical spills and will not eliminate any risks and dangers at the job site. So if workers are exposed to hazardous materials you should always have other risk control measures in place like isolation devices and personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

Step 2: Consider elimination control measures

Your risk assessment will always try to find ways of (first) eliminating a hazard — and if that cannot be achieved — minimise the risks to an acceptable level. Let’s look again at the generic examples from Step 1.

 

Hazard Elimination controls Eyewash station

Unleaded petrol and oil reaching the eyes of workers

Yes. Replace the mower, brush cutter and hedge trimmer with electric models.

Not required. Decommission flammable liquids store and remove petrol powered equipment from site.

Highly corrosive acid in the eyes.

No. The lab tests are essential to commercial operations and no chemical substitutes are available.

Required. Install a bench-mounted unit adjacent to the lab testing station.

 

You can see in the two examples above, there was a way to completely eliminate the first hazard which removes the need for an eyewash unit. But real life situations are never as simple as this, perhaps the chemicals (and quantities) may not have required an eyewash station in the first place. Remember our focus here is on having hazard elimination at the centre of your WHS efforts, and to conduct a risk assessment before rushing out and buying equipment.

 

IMPORTANT: To learn more about chemical hazard controls please download our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace. We detail the Hierarchy of Control and the expected procedures for managing chemical hazards in Australia.

Step 3: Select and install equipment

Once you’ve identified the areas that require emergency eyewash facilities you’ll need to select a unit that will best serve the workers in each area. Here are some essential considerations:

a) Type of unit - what type of eyewash unit will best suit the area? You might choose a freestanding eyewash which is ideal for an outdoor installation; a counter-mounted unit that sits over a sink; a bench mounted eyewash which is suited to labs and other work areas that need an  eyewash close to the hazard; or a combination unit that incorporates both a safety shower and an eyewash.

b) Location of eyewash - workers must be able to access an eyewash station within 10 seconds of injury, so install the unit on the same level as the hazard. You’ll need to make sure there is a clear path between the work area and the eyewash. According to Australian Safety Standards the eyewash must be highly visible and have compliant warning placards — and the entire area must be well lit.

c) Supplementary equipment - if there is any possibility of a collapsed worker requiring decontamination you may need to consider hand-held units and other face-wash equipment to supplement your eyewash station.

 

IMPORTANT: Safety showers and eyewash stations are not interchangeable. Compliant eyewash equipment delivers water at a lower pressure (to both eyes simultaneously) and won’t cause damage to the soft tissue in the eye area.

 

 

 Any questions? Feel free to contact one of our friendly team here.  Alternatively, you can call us on our support line: 1300 134 223

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping businesses reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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