By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant
The majority of personal protective equipment is used on a regular, or even daily, basis, such as high-visibility vests for construction workers, safety glasses for manufacturers, and heavy-duty gloves for utilities workers. However, not all safety equipment is such an everyday part of employees’ lives. Eyewash and shower stations are, by nature, only needed in an emergency – ideally a very rare event. But upkeep and testing is just as important as any other piece of safety equipment.
Imants Stiebris, director of commercial and industrial sales at Wilmington, DE-based Speakman Co., advocates product testing. “The most important concern when it comes to people and eyewash/shower safety is that the product works properly, especially when needed. As a precaution, testing of the product should be done periodically.”
Margo Mee, product development manager at Sparks, NV-based Haws Corp., also believes checking for up-to-date safety features is important, and recommends weekly tests on equipment.
Mee is aware that proper safety protocol is not always followed and warns that misuse of directions or ignorance of proper safety standards in regard to these systems can have dramatic repercussions. “ANSI suggests that emergency equipment be used for a full 15 minutes to thoroughly flush all contaminants from the body. If one was to exit equipment prematurely, chemicals that penetrated the skin can continue to burn. Training and education is the best way to combat the misuse,” Mee advised.
Another reason to make sure these stations are up to date is that technology is continually advancing. For example, systems now are available with built-in alarms that signal when the recommended 15 minutes have passed, giving a victim and those around the victim one less thing to worry about in an emergency.
Mee said technological improvements to the actual flow of water is major progress. “The newest technologies replicate standard medical protocol and procedure for irrigating eyes in an emergency. Eye/face- washes with inverted directional water flow actually move contaminants away from the inner eye, where they could drain into the nasal cavity and lungs. By flushing from the inside to the outside of the eye, eye/facewashes help alleviate potential further damage,” Mee concluded.
While emergency eyewash and showers are systems no employee ever wants to have to use, proper upkeep, knowledge and preparedness can make a dramatic difference in the event of a crisis.