Eye Wash Station OSHA Recommendation
- OSHA legally requires that employers provide an emergency eyewash station “where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials.” To determine what constitutes an “injurious corrosive” substance, OSHA stipulates that an employer should evaluate the substance's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This is specified in 29 CFR 1910.15l(c) of the OSHA regulations.
Conflict of Interest
- Importantly, while OSHA provides requirements for what must be printed on an MSDS, it is up to the substance manufacturer to actually produce the MSDS. This introduces a conflict of interest on the manufacturer's part. A respectable manufacturer will print an accurate and thorough MSDS, but some manufacturers will cut corners, get facts wrong or even print misinformation. You should consider verifying the claims made by a MSDS in a chemical reference manual.
Limitations in the Law
- OSHA only requires an emergency eyewash station in locations where workers may be exposed to “injurious corrosive” materials. The regulation does not legally require an eyewash in other potentially hazardous working conditions, including in the presence of caustics. To supplement this narrow regulation, OSHA recommends following the guidelines laid out by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for installing an emergency eyewash wherever a plausible eye hazard exists.
ANSI Design Standards
- OSHA endorses the ANSI standards for the construction and maintenance of emergency eyewash stations. The applicable guidelines are laid out in ANSI Z358.1-2004. ANSI advises that eyewash stations be located within ten seconds of the hazard, and that they be easily approachable. They should be 33 to 45 inches from the floor, with an easy-activation valve that stays open without steady pressure. The water should be lukewarm and flow at a low velocity. ANSI advises employee training, conspicuous signage, good lighting in the surrounding area and weekly testing.
State and Local Laws
- OSHA advises employers to be mindful of state and municipal codes which may impose additional legal requirements for eyewash stations, beyond the limited OSHA regulation. OSHA does not keep track of what these additional requirements may be, or whether any additional requirements actually exist in a given jurisdiction, and does not advise employers on these matters beyond telling them to consult with the appropriate state and municipal government offices.