SAFE OPERATIONS MEETING
Emergency Wash Stations
Many new chemical products are introduced into the workplace each year, and even with careful planning and safety measures, harmful chemical-exposure accidents occur. Because of the potential for exposure, a list of all hazardous substances should be maintained at each worksite. Material Safety Data Sheets on these substances should be readily available with substance descriptions including their location, risks, manufacturer’s precautions, and treatment or antidote measures in case of a harmful exposure.
Emergency wash fixtures must be provided in the workplace if there is a reasonable risk that workers may be exposed to caustic chemicals or other hazardous substances. All workers at risk for exposure should be made aware of the location and purpose of the emergency wash stations and receive regular training on their use. Keep in mind that emergency wash fixtures are not substitutes for personal protective gear like safety eyewear, face shields, and protective clothing.
Some chemicals have a harmful reaction when mixed with another substance and may endanger the handler or those in the area. You can counteract a reaction by having emergency wash stations or showers that provide large amounts of continually flowing water to flush the chemical. It is not recommended that neutralizing agents be used on the eyes or skin. Combining certain chemicals can be dangerous, and may increase the damaging effects of chemical burns or develop scar tissue if the wrong neutralizing agent is accidentally used.
The most effective first step in treating chemical contamination of the eye or skin is immediate flushing or washing with potable water. This and the selection and placement of emergency wash stations or showers, are among the most crucial steps you can take in effective emergency response.
Medical experts say that immediate access to an emergency wash station is critical. The chance of full recovery from chemical contamination of the eye is excellent if the victim reaches an eyewash station within 10 to 15 seconds. Panic, pain, and obscured vision will slow response time, so it is important that emergency wash fixtures be highly visible.
The length of time and amount of flushing or washing is key to the successful treatment of the eye or skin. The minimum amount of time for flushing the eye is 15 minutes, although most medical experts say a full 20 to 30 minutes of flushing time is best. It is important that the water pressure of the eyewash station be closely regulated because tender eye tissue can be easily damaged.
With the help of a trained medical professional, establish first-aid procedures for chemical injuries, then review and update these measures and all safety precautions on a regular schedule.
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