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There’s More to Workplace Safety Than Meets the Eye

By: Imants Stiebris, BS, MBA and Vice President of Products and Compliance for the Speakman Company

An emergency eyewash station must be located within 10 seconds travel time of an area where hazardous materials are being used. Eyewash equipment should provide flushing fluid to both eyes at a velocity that is non-injurious.

Little did Charles Dickens know his 1838 novel, Oliver Twist, would set the stage for the world’s first workplace safety movement when he exposed the cruel child labor conditions of the Victorian era. Dickens’ novel created such a public outcry that companies were pressured to change and adapt working conditions—in order to provide a safer, more productive environment for their employees.

Fast forward 180 years, and employers find themselves inundated with an almost endless array of industry codes and government regulatory safety requirements. Navigating the maze of these standards in order to attain full compliance is difficult. In fact, most companies have created job positions dedicated to one sole purpose: to ensure they are current and compliant with mandatory workplace safety standards.

Have On-The-Job Safety Practices Become Routine?

Every day, workers begin their shift by donning hardhats, safety glasses, gloves, protective clothing and steel-toe boots to guard themselves from the inherent hazards they may be exposed to. These and other safety protocols put in place by their employers have become standard operating procedure; some safety practices have even become an expected element of the daily routine. That is, until the inevitable happens: Something unexpected goes wrong. An equipment malfunction splashes chemicals into the eyes. A corrosive material contacts an unprotected part of the body. A battery charging station malfunctions and exposes parts of the body and eyes to damaging sulfuric acid. Suddenly, a routine day on the job becomes an emergency situation.

Focusing on a Solution: The Importance of Emergency Eyewash Equipment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 27,450 workplace non-fatal eye injuries that resulted in days out-of-work were reported in the U.S. in 2008. There were undoubtedly many more exposure injuries that did not result in days of lost work—probably because they were treated quickly with an eyewash or emergency shower. That statistic alone should motivate every company to have properly maintained eyewash stations in-place, ready to turn a potentially harmful injury into a safe outcome.

Unfortunately, eyewash stations are often overlooked as a critical safety feature in the workplace. Eyewash stations frequently are badly marked; difficult to find; and difficult to operate in a panicked state, causing them to fall short of the real safety goal of treating eye injuries quickly.

Every company should have eyewash stations in-place, ready to turn a potentially harmful injury into a safe outcome.

Can You Pass the 10 Second Race to Safety?

Choosing the right emergency eyewash equipment to guarantee your facility is compliant with laws and standards can be a confusing process. The following is a brief list of questions to help you determine if your facility is up-to-date with the latest ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 and OSHA 1910.151 (c) requirements:

  1. Do you have an emergency eyewash station located within 10 seconds travel time of an area where hazardous materials are being used?
  2. Is the flushing fluid temperature tepid (60-100° F)?
  3. Is the emergency eyewash station installed on the same level as the hazard and travel to the station free of obstructions?
  4. Do you test your eyewashes weekly to verify proper operation?
  5. Is each eyewash station well-lit and identified with highly visible signage?
  6. Can you activate your eyewashes in one second or less?
  7. Do your eyewash units operate hands-free once activated?
  8. Are your eyewash station nozzles protected from airborne contaminants?
  9. Are all of your employees instructed on the location of the emergency equipment and able to operate the fixture properly?
  10. Does your eyewash equipment provide flushing fluid to both eyes at a velocity that is non-injurious?

These 10 questions address the basic requirements needed to pass a regulatory eyewash compliance audit. If you answered no to any of them, chances are you are not in compliance with OSHA and ANSI’s eyewash requirements, and your employees are at risk, should a chemical exposure occur.

To make certain this never happens to you, an independent survey of your facility and existing equipment is extremely important. Experts in the emergency eyewash industry can perform an on-site evaluation and issue a comprehensive report that will guide you through the steps you need to take to ensure your facility is compliant to OSHA 1910.151(c) and ANSI/ISEA Z358.1. By doing so, you can be confident that you have done everything possible to ensure a safer workplace.

Greater productivity and less downtime are good things; every company strives to achieve them. Providing a safer work environment is one key to meeting that goal. But more importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Charles Dickens would be proud to know his one piece of prose made a tremendous difference between the workplace environment of today compared to that of his era. WMHS


Imants Stiebris is Vice President of Products and Compliance for the Speakman Company, a 149-year-old family owned business located in Wilmington, Delaware. Stiebris is currently the vice-chairman of the International Safety Equipment Association’s ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 Shower and Eyewash Product Group.

For a FREE, no-obligation facility survey conducted by an expert emergency eyewash and shower representative, call 1-844-SPEAKMAN or visit for more information.

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