Employee Health and Safety

Ask an Expert From: Products Finishing, , from Hixson Inc.

Posted on: 9/1/2003

Question: Recently, I started as the general manager of a job shop metal finishing plant.

Question:

Recently, I started as the general manager of a job shop metal finishing plant. One of my responsibilities is health and safety of the employees, which I take very seriously. We only have one safety shower/eye wash station that is located at one end of our largest plating line. This seems insufficient. What is the OSHA requirement? Thank you for all your help. M.W.

Answer:

M.W., your question is a good one and is quite pertinent to the metal finishing industry given the corrosive chemicals used. OSHA regulations (29 CFR 1910.151©) state that where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious and corrosive chemicals, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body must be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use. OSHA does not go into detail what this means but uses “industry standards.” For a number of safety issues, OSHA recognizes standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as “industry standards.”

Under ANSI Z358.1, emergency showers and eye wash equipment are recommended to meet the following:

a) placed within 10 seconds travel time of a hazard, within 10 ft of strong acids or caustics
b) be able to flush out both eyes simultaneously
c) nozzles must be protected from airborne contaminants
d) able to maintain a minimum flushing rate of 0.4 gpm for eyewash and 20 gpm for shower for 15 minutes
e) use “stay open” valves to keep hands free to hold eyelids open
f) begin flushing within one second of activation
g) identify location with a highly visible sign
h) ensure that the location is readily accessible and free of obstructions
i) equipment properly maintained
j) employee training in use of equipment
k) use of water at “tepid” temperatures

Tepid temperatures are defined as being moderately warm or lukewarm. The ANSI standard does not give a “numerical” value for what is considered “tepid temperature.” We have seen articles where various sources have expressed their definition of tepid waters as anywhere from 60-92F. There seems to be more of a concern regarding “higher” temperature water than “lower” temperature water.

Based upon our numerous site evaluations, we have found these common unsafe issues regarding emergency showers and eye washes: only “eye flush bottles” available, these are fine if in addition to eye washes; the emergency showers are connected to a water supply unable to deliver 20 gpm. For 20 gpm, a one-inch water supply, minimum, is usually needed; safety shower and eye wash access blocked by drums or parts containers; safety shower or eye wash stations not highly visible due to dirt buildup and corrosion and equipment not maintained or functioning.

I hope this helps you. In my opinion, one emergency shower/eye wash is very likely insufficient and would not meet the ANSI standard unless your facility is very small.

 


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