Eye wash stations are required wherever there is a possibility that caustic or corrosive chemicals could splash into the eye of an individual. It is important to note that blood and body fluids are not considered to be caustic or corrosive. It is also important to note that the use of Personal Protective Equipment (face shields, glasses, goggles) does not exempt the need for an eye wash station. Material Safety Data Sheets will specify whether or not an eye wash station is required, by the listed emergency treatment of flushing the eyes with water for 15 minutes.
Accreditation organizations (Joint Commission, HFAP and DNV) as well as CMS does not specify the location for eye wash stations. The organization is expected to conduct a risk assessment (or survey) of their facility’s operation and process areas to determine if and where eye wash station are needed. If the facility has determined that an eye wash station is needed, then it needs to conform with the ANSI standard Z358.1-2009, which has the following specifications:
- Only eye wash stations that are capable of providing a flow of clean potable water at a rate of 0.4 gallons per minute at 30 psi for 15 minutes are permitted. It is possible that some self-contained eye was stations may provide this flow requirement, but normally only plumbed eye wash stations do.
- The flow nozzles of the eye wash station must be mounted a minimum of 33 inches and a maximum of 45 inches above the floor, and a minimum of 6 inches from any wall, post or other barrier.
- Activation of the eye wash station must occur in one (1) second or less of operating the control valve, so this typically eliminates the faucet mounted eye wash stations that requires the operation of three (3) levers to obtain a balanced flow of water. The control valve must remain open on its own until it is intentionally turned off.
- Approved eye wash stations are required to be located within 10 seconds travel time (or 55 feet) of the hazard and the path to get to an eye wash station must not be hindered or obstructed. The ANSI Z358.1-2009 standard has changed to allow one (1) door in the path to get to an eye wash station, provided the door cannot be locked and the door swings in the direction to the eye wash station.
- While there is no standard that prohibits the small supplemental personal wash bottles, they cannot meet the flow rate requirements for a 15 minute flush, and therefore are not a substitute for a plumbed eye wash station. They can serve as a supplemental aid but the plumbed eye wash station needs to be located within 10 seconds travel time (or 55 feet) of the hazard. The presence of the small supplemental personal wash bottles indicates a need for a plumbed eye wash station. Check the expiration date on the small bottles.
- The temperature of the water is required to be tepid. The ANSI standard defines tepid water as being between 60°F and 100°F. In order to achieve this temperature range, the organization may have to install mixing valves. Water temperatures outside of the 60°F and 100°F range may be permitted provide a risk assessment is conducted by qualified individuals which analyzes the hazard and the temperature of the water to flush the hazard. Qualifying individuals must include an individual with clinical or medical training.
- Weekly activation of the eye wash stations is required to clear any sediment or bacteria. There is no specified time that the water must flow. An annual inspection of the eye wash station is required to determine conformance to installation requirements are maintained.
In response to the question: “How do Accreditation Organizations survey a hospital (or nursing home) in regards to eye wash stations?” Here are my tips and recommendations:
- In a healthcare setting, eye wash stations are typically found where cleaning chemicals are mixed (such as housekeeping areas), plant operations, dialysis mixing rooms and laboratories. The surveyor will determine if the organization has conducted a risk assessment to determine the need for eye wash stations.
- All required eye wash stations must be the plumbed type, that can operate in one (1) second or less. This means the faucet mounted type that requires turning the hot water lever and the cold water lever and then pulling a center lever is not permitted.
- Access to the eye wash station must be within 10 seconds (or 55 feet) of the hazard. The individual seeking an eye wash station may travel through one (1) door to get to an eye wash station, provided the door does not have a lock on it, and swings in the direction to the eye wash station.
- If an eye wash station is observed outside of an area where they are typically needed, the surveyor may ask the organization why it is there. They will want to determine if you have a risk assessment that requires it to be there. If there is no valid reason for the eye wash station to be there, it can be removed and may save you time and resources in maintaining it.
- Eye wash stations may need to have a mixing valve to maintain a flow of water in the 60°F and 100°F range. The surveyor may ask to see the risk assessment to determine if a mixing valve is required.
- Every eye wash station needs to be tested weekly by flowing water to clear any sediment and bacteria. There is no requirement how long the water must flow. Every eye wash station must be inspected annually to determine the eye wash station still conforms to the installation parameters. The surveyor will likely ask to see the weekly and annual inspection reports.
- The presence of eye wash bottles indicates someone in the organization decided it was needed. The surveyor will likely investigate and ask why the bottles are located there. If the surveyor determines a need for a plumbed eye wash station within 10 seconds travel time (or 55 feet) of the perceived hazard, then you are ripe for a finding. Conduct a risk assessment to determine if a plumbed eye wash station is required. If so, have one installed or relocate the hazard. If not, then remove the portable eye wash bottles. Also, if you retain the bottles, check the expiration date to ensure it has not expired.
While there may not be a direct standard in the Accreditation Organization’s manual that addresses eye wash station, any deficiency that a surveyor finds will likely be entered under a standard that addresses general safety in the physical environment, such as EC.02.01.01, EP 1 for Joint commission; 11.02.02 for HFAP; and PE.1, SR.1 for DNV.