Eye injuries should always be taken seriously, no matter how minor they appear to be. The delicate surface of the eye and surrounding area is more sensitive than the rest of our skin, and a small cut or contact with a harsh chemical can lead to infection and even blindness.
A sample by DDS Legal found that 25% of businesses fail an inspection of eyewash stations. Common reasons for failure included a lack of eyewash stations, incorrectly installed stations, or lack of replenished eyewash solution.
If your business is found to not meet emergency eyewash station requirements you could face a fine or even prosecution. More importantly, a member of your staff could be seriously hurt when they cannot use the first aid equipment they need.
In this article, we’ll cover everything about eyewash station regulations UK businesses need to know.
How to Know if You Need an Eyewash Station
Emergency eyewash requirements don’t apply to all businesses. So, when is an eyewash station required? Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 all businesses must conduct a risk assessment to
“Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking, for the purpose of identifying the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions.”
Your risk assessment will reveal any potential eye injury hazards and determine whether you need to install eyecare provisions. Out of the most common hazards found in the workplace, there are three main risks that can lead to an eye injury.
Example of Accident
Spillage, leak, splash, spray, vapour.
Chemical burn to eye surface and surrounding tissue.
Naked flame, spark, steam, smoke, explosion.
Burn to the eye surface and surrounding tissue.
Impact from moving parts, cuts or scratches from sharp edges, material thrown from moving parts such as woodchips or dust.
Contamination of the eye, cuts or scratches of the eye, minute lacerations, puncture and impaling from foreign objects.
These are the main sources of eye injury in the workplace and should be considered when carrying out a risk assessment. But you should also stay vigilant for other hazards in your particular business environment.
For example, exposure to ultraviolet light without the proper PPE can result in flash burns to the eyes. This can be caused by exposure to a welding machine or sunbed. Take time to consider all of the potential hazards to the safety of your employees’ eyes when considering where an eyewash station is needed.
Where are eyewash stations required? Examples
Here are some examples of businesses whose risk assessments determine the need for an eyewash station:
Manufacturers, distributors, and some users of nail polish, lipstick, photographic paper, some glues, paper towels, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, some inks, vehicles, some building materials.
Manufacturers and distributors of textiles, aluminium, drain cleaner, bleach, soap, and detergents, commercial kitchens.
Agriculture and farming facilities, manufacturing and warehousing, landscaping, automotive.
Construction sites, facilities where batteries are stored, serviced, and handled for machinery including forklifts.
Electrical battery storage electrolytes.
Bleach manufacturers, hospitals, pool facilities, spa facilities, cleaning companies.
Pharmaceuticals and laboratories, businesses handling refrigeration and petroleum.
Farming and agriculture, greenhouses and nurseries, landscaping.
Insecticides, pesticides, etc.
Construction, manufacturing, warehousing, waste management, farming and agriculture, hospitals, laboratories.
Construction, manufacturing, warehousing, waste management, farming and agriculture, hospitals, laboratories, commercial kitchens.
Installing an Eyewash Station Correctly
If you’ve completed a risk assessment and determined your eyewash station requirements, HSE sets out exactly what eyewash standards need to be met:
“If mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least one litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9% w/v) in sealed, disposable containers should be provided. Once the seal has been broken, containers should not be kept for reuse. Containers should not be used beyond their expiry date.”
There are two types of eyewash stations to choose from that should meet these requirements: plumbed and portable eyewash stations. We cover the difference between the two in more detail in our blog. We recommend installing a portable eyewash station because of these benefits:
- More flexibility on where it can be installed.
- Sealed containers of saline solution remain sterile until opened meaning there’s no need for regular cleaning.
- Saline solution is gentler on the eyes and keeps at room temperature making it more comfortable to use.
- Bottles of eyewash solution can be removed from the station and brought to the injured person, or taken on a journey to A&E.
Eyewash requirements vary from business to business and you should select an eyewash station that suits your needs, whether it should be wall-mounted, contain a mirror and instructions, consist of individual eyewash pods, or be simply free-standing.
Where should eyewash facilities be located?
In addition to HSE eyewash regulations, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) oversees eyewash safety and standards internationally. ANSI Z358.1-2004 is the standard that sets out regulations and guidance on the installation, maintenance, and regulation of eyewash equipment.
ANSI’s eyewash station regulations recommend that the eyewash station should be accessible within 10 seconds of eye contamination, and advises that the average person can walk 15 metres in 10 seconds. Take care to remember that someone heading to the eyewash station might not be able to see very well so they are likely to move more slowly.
Use the following exercise to determine where your eyewash station should be required and how many you need:
- Take a floor plan of your business and mark the proposed location of your eyewash station. Mark areas where there is a risk of eye injury too.
- Take a stopwatch and walk north of the proposed location for 10 seconds (do not run). Mark the location you’ve reached on the floor plan.
- Repeat this action for directions east, west, and south. Draw a circle connecting the four spots. This is the radius of ten seconds distance from your eyewash station.
- Check to see which areas have been left out. Are there are places where the risk of eye injury is further than 10 seconds from the eyewash station? Propose more eyewash stations to cover these areas using steps 2 and 3. Any areas that are hard to access that present an eye injury risk should have their own eyewash station if possible.
Remember that the eyewash station should be easy to access for all staff in all situations, consider the following:
- Is the eyewash station behind any restricted access doors?
- Is the eyewash station on the same level as the hazard? You shouldn’t put any stairs between the hazard and the eyewash station.
- Is the pathway to the eyewash station clear? Is it obstructed intermittently by such activities as receiving deliveries?
Eyewash Station Height Requirements
Eyewash station mounting height is another important factor to consider. If your eyewash station is plumbed, ANSI recommends that the nozzles are positioned 33–45 inches above the floor.
Portable eyewash stations afford more flexibility on eyewash mounting height as the bottles of eyewash solution can usually be detached from their mounted position. This is the case for the Sterowash Eyewash Station.
However, it’s still important to ensure the station can be reached by everyone. Make sure you take all staff into consideration when mounting an eyewash wall bracket, or setting up a free-standing eyewash station. Consider any staff with disabilities that make access more challenging for them.
If your eyewash station comes with a mirror and instructions like our Sterowash Eyewash Plate be sure this is easy for staff to look into when standing in front of the station.
Eye Wash Signage Requirements
ANSI requires that eyewash stations be identified with signs that are highly visible. Use eyewash station signage to remind your staff of where it is located and help them find it in an emergency.
Eyewash Station Maintenance
One of the most common reasons for failing an eyewash station inspection according to DDS Legal was a poorly kept station. Missing or out of date eyewash solution or a poorly installed eyewash station can be no more helpful than no station at all. Make sure your station is in good condition with regular eyewash station maintenance.
Eyewash Station Cleaning
Part of keeping your eyewash station working well is cleaning. This is especially important if it is plumbed. Unlike a portable eyewash station, a plumbed station runs the risk of a build-up of bacteria through stagnant water in the nozzles. This bacteria could cause an infection when passed to the eyes, especially if an open wound is present.
Manual cleaning of the nozzles with a detergent and thorough flushing of the eyewash station on a weekly basis is necessary to keep it hygienic.
Even though the solution inside sealed eyewash bottles at a portable station is sterile, keeping the bottles and station free from dust minimises the chance of cross-contamination when carrying out an eyewash. Ensure your portable eyewash station is cleaned weekly to keep it hygienic.
Eyewash Station Inspection Procedure
An eyewash station inspection should be performed regularly to make sure the station is in good working order and is easy to access. Consider the following eyewash inspection requirements when planning your inspection:
- If plumbed, check the working condition of the nozzles by activating them on a weekly basis.
- If portable, check the seals on the bottles and the bottles themselves are intact, check the use-by date on each bottle.
- Is the area around the eyewash station well-lit and is the station itself free from obstruction?
- Is the eyewash station sufficiently signposted? Are the signs visible?
How often should eyewash stations be checked?
How often do eyewash stations need to be inspected? ANSI recommends “weekly activation of the equipment to assure that it is in working order and inspected at least annually for compliance with the standard.”
Eyewash Station Training
In addition to the above eyewash station legal requirements, UK businesses need to ensure sufficient training is provided. Eyewash training and induction is important to ensure all staff are aware of where the eyewash station is located and what to do in an eye emergency.
Training helps staff to think of using emergency equipment as second nature, and greatly increases their confidence and capabilities during an emergency.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires that businesses provide “whatever
information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of your employees.”
Employers must provide access to training resources and materials and identify instances in which training is important. This could be at the beginning of a new role, with the introduction of new equipment and operations, or after a considerable amount of time has passed and staff could be a bit ‘rusty’.
Part of health and safety training is ensuring employees are consistently exposed to information, you could do this by:
- Putting up posters in workplaces explaining procedures.
- Organising regular training refresher sessions.
- Role-playing emergency situations.
- Incentivising learning, for example, a bonus for passing a health and safety quiz.
Take a look at our guides on how to perform an eyewash and what to do in an eye injury emergency, share them with your staff so they can familiarise themselves with the information:
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