Do whatever is needed to ensure a clear pathway to the eyewash/shower unit. No stacks of junk, excess storage, or trash bins should interfere.
By Linda J. Sherrard
Eyewash and safety shower emergency assistance is at hand. Your safety program may have it all — the latest in PPE, new and improved chemicals, storage and removal inside in a beautiful facility. What about all of the emergency assistance and comprehensive eye and face protection?
More than just first aid kits or calling the rescue squad, safety showers, eyewashes, and drench hoses and among the most important items, yet they stay quietly in the background. These emergency equipment items are truly the unseen heroes of exposure and are not given the value they deserve.
I think of screams, disfiguring facial burns, blindness, ulcers, scarring, and blisters and know that this is more than a regular first aid kit can handle! Do your employees know what to do in such a crisis? What about your management? Are processes in place to take care of the injured employee immediately, transport the individual to the hospital, and back up his or her lost work time by way of a trained replacement? Can you explain to upper management why everything you thought was in place failed?
Consider the costs involved. Installing a simple plumbed eyewash or combination eyewash/shower can save countless dollars in lost work time, physical injuries, OSHA citations, insurance costs, and training temporary or replacement employees. Another hidden cost not usually considered is that of your time as safety chief, investigating and resolving all of the associated problems.
More Than Just a Code
The eyewash and safety shower program is one of the most under-utilized, overlooked, and abused through misuse and mismanagement that we must maintain. This should never be a “footnote” or afterthought program, but instead be front and center and regularly upgraded, as needed. Diligent care and continuous maintenance and follow up are required for the life of the program elements.
Admittedly, most safety professionals are just a little cavalier about eyewash and safety showers. Many see them as a necessary evil and give courtesy time to the program development and training elements.
However, anyone who has ever needed emergency care from an eyewash or safety shower will be a true zealot — every moment spent on the program and long-term care pays for the safety of area employees and reduces liability tremendously for the company. I remember well the day I was doused with gasoline. All embarrassment goes out the window when it is you hurting. I am a true advocate of eyewashes and safety showers. Read the codes, then do what is right for your employees.
Most industries, from heavy industry to medical technology, have need of an eyewash/safety shower program. Consider your production and your hazard assessment.
One quick look at your facility’s hazard assessment and injury log will reveal many facts; the sad news is all of those “near misses” you never hear about. Buck up and realize that you have ignored the need for a consolidated effort and start trying to work through this issue, thus helping to reduce the potential for injuries and the seriousness of injuries that requiring the use of eyewash and emergency showers.
Do you know the regulations, including 29 CFR 1910.151(c)? Check out www.osha.gov for targeted information and some great training guides. Other sources include those companies involved in eyewash and shower development and distributors, many of which have outstanding resource pages for public use. You also can call technical experts at most of the big companies.
As a seasoned safety professional, I am a strong believer in having appropriate eyewash/safety showers on site and knowing where they are needed and who needs to be trained on them. A substantial program can be achieved with minimal effort and some aggravation. Serious disfiguring injuries are often preventable with some planning, training, and good management oversight, along with a simply operated eyewash/shower station that employees actually know how to use.
You and your managers know the hazardous locations of the company where the greatest potential for corrosive exposure injuries is present or even have occurred, and thus the most serious need for eyewash/safety shower exists. Keep in mind, when it comes to corrosives and skin, corrosives always win! Are the injuries preventable? Absolutely. But so often the employee does not wear the PPE, mistakes or stupid decisions are made, someone trips or slips, there’s horseplay . . . and the injury occurs. How do you make a real change in the program? Following are a few items to include next time your facility reviews programs related to eyewash/safety showers. (By the way, many of these exist, including first aid, HazCom, PPE, protective apparel, fire, and more — think of anything that results in burning, scalding, or corrosive injury that is destructive, possibly including your compounding/administration of some medical drugs, such as chemo items.)