Potential Microbial Exposure Risks from Eyewash Stations Meant to Protect Workers
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the need to properly maintain eyewash stations to prevent contamination.
Eyewash stations need to be maintained to ensure they work correctly and do not pose a biological exposure risk to anyone who may need to use them in an emergency.
A number of industries are required to provide eyewash facilities for their workers as part of their critical emergency safety equipment. Eyewash stations can help to mitigate injuries to a worker whose eyes have been accidentally exposed to a physical, chemical or biological agent.
Eyewash stations, whether permanently connected to a source of potable water or having self-contained flushing fluid, require proper maintenance. Without it, they may actually present health hazards that can worsen or cause additional damage to a worker’s eyes.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports, “Water found in improperly maintained eyewash stations is more likely to contain organisms (e.g., Acanthamoeba, Pseudomonas, Legionella) that thrive in stagnant or untreated water and are known to cause infections. When a worker uses an eyewash station that is not maintained, organisms in the water may come into contact with the eye, skin or may be inhaled. Workers using eyewash stations after exposure to a hazardous chemical or material may have eye injuries that make the eye more susceptible to infection. Also, workers with skin damage or compromised immune systems (e.g., transplant recovery, cancer, lupus) are at increased risk for developing illnesses from contaminated water. Early diagnosis is important to prevent infections from causing serious health effects, including permanent vision loss and severe lung diseases (e.g., pneumonia).”
“Eyewash stations have been instrumental in helping to save the vision of countless workers,” said Susan Ripple, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “However, this important safety equipment should not just be installed and then forgotten until a situation occurs. Eyewash stations need to be maintained to ensure they work correctly and do not pose a biological exposure risk to anyone who may need to use them in an emergency.”
Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to help prevent occupational injuries and illnesses, including those involving eye injuries. In addition to understanding industry regulations associated with of eyewash stations, CIHs are knowledgeable about where these units should be placed and proper maintenance. CIHs also have extensive training and experience in the identification and communication of chemical and biological hazards, assessing health risks and offering exposure controls in work environments and industrial processes to protect workers’ eyes and their overall health and safety.
To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638.
About the American Board of Industrial Hygiene ®
Since 1960, ABIH®, a not-for-profit corporation, has been the world’s largest organization for certifying professionals in the practice of industrial hygiene. ABIH® is the premier credentialing body responsible for ensuring high-quality certification including education, experience, examination, certification maintenance and ethics enforcement. Currently, more than 6800 people in 32 countries are certified to use the CIH® designation.
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