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How to Wash Eyes at an Eyewash Station

How to Wash Eyes at an Eyewash Station

When the eye is contaminated, whether by a sharp object flying into it, being splashed with a harmful cleaning product, or any other instance in which the eye is compromised, you need to take immediate action.


In this article, we’ll cover how to wash eyes following contamination.

Broken lab test tube

Act Immediately in an Eye Injury Emergency

Fortunately, eye accidents don’t happen very often, but when they do you need to act quickly because the longer the eye is contaminated the higher the chance of injury increases. Instinctive rubbing of the eye or even moving the eye underneath the eyelid can cause a contaminant to spread or rub against the delicate eye tissue, and the longer a corrosive chemical is in contact with the eye, the more damage it can do. 


Eyewash stations are designed to be very easy to use so that even untrained people can follow simple eyewash instructions. However, in a stressful environment where an eye injury has occurred, acting quickly is important. Knowing how to do an eyewash or how to help someone beforehand can increase your chances of caring for an eye injury and making a better recovery.


Some work environments are at a higher risk than others of eye injury, including:

Kitchens

Kitchens

Warehouse

Warehouses

factory_1

Factories

Building_sites

Building Sites

Hospital

Hospitals

Lab

Laboratories

school

Schools

But there are lots of other places where eyecare provisions are needed. The workplace first aid risk assessment you carry out as part of the HSE’s Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 will help you determine whether you need an eyewash station or eyecare kit on your premises.

Sterowash Eyecare Kit Benefits and Features

  • Each eyewash kit comes in a durable, waterproof, clear polypropylene box that protects the supplies inside from being damaged or getting dirty.
  • The box is lightweight and easy to carry to other parts of the premises, making transportation of first aid items quick and painless under duress.
  • The box is clearly labelled and can be wall-mounted, making it easy to find dressings and eyewash in an emergency.
  • Pre-drilled holes make wall installation easy.
  • The kit includes a shatterproof mirror, helpful for self-administering an eyewash.
  • The kit includes two sterile eye pads for dressing an injured eye or eyes. 
  • The eye first aid kit includes Sterowash solution in 500ml bottles with easy-twist caps that are straightforward to use. 
  • The kit includes Sterowash solution in 20ml pods with twist-tops that are easy and convenient to use.
  • Choose from either medium or large eyecare kits or an eye and wound first aid kit with eyewash, each with tailored contents.
Inspecting face

Before Washing the Eye

How to wash out your eye, or help someone do an eyewash differs depending on whether you use a plumbed eyewash station or a portable saline eyewash station. Find out more about the difference between the two in our blog What is Eyewash? What is it used for?


However, any eyewash procedure should be approached calmly, and if there’s another person with you ask them to help if they can and if you need it. Refrain from rubbing your eye if possible as this will cause the contaminant to be spread across the eye and pushed further in.


Some eye injuries might call for emergency medical attention and the situation should be judged with common sense on whether you need to call 999, visit A&E, call the 111 non-emergency number, or do nothing following an eyewash. If a harsh chemical has entered the eye in a laboratory you may need to see a medical professional quickly, however, if your eye is contaminated by dust it may require a routine follow up doctor’s appointment.

Read our blogs Eye Injury First Aid: What to do in an Emergency and Eye First Aid: Common Situations to find out what to do when someone injures their eye at work.

Read our blogs Eye Injury First Aid: What to do in an Emergency and Eye First Aid: Common Situations to find out what to do when someone injures their eye at work.

Sterowash eyewash station

How to Wash Eyes with Saline Solution

Saline solution is found in bottles on portable eyewash stations. All portable eyewash stations must contain at least 1L of sterile eyewash solution as stated by the HSE and this is usually found in two 500ml bottles that can be used together if necessary. Proper use of eyewash bottles is much the same as the procedure for using a plumbed eyewash station, you may be able to refer to eyewash bottle use instructions on the product.

Here’s how to use saline eyewash:


  1. As soon as your eye becomes contaminated make your way to the eyewash station. Let a team member know if you can so they can help to guide you.
  2. If you cannot go to the eyewash station, ask someone nearby to fetch the eyewash bottles for you. Remove the lid or lids.
  3. Tilt your head to ensure the contaminant does not flow into the other unaffected eye. If both eyes are affected irrigate both at the same time or one after the other..
  4. Flush the eye by gently squeezing the bottle over the eye. The direction of flow should go from the inner corner of the eye to the outer.
  5. Hold your eyelid open with a finger and thumb if necessary. Move your eye side to side and up and down during the washing process to ensure any contaminant trapped under the eyelids is washed away.

Download and print out these instructions to keep in your health and safety policy so that staff can refer to them when being trained, or find them easily in an emergency if they need to.

Equip your workplace with a portable eyewash station. At Steroplast we offer a range of different options to suit your premises and work environment.

Our eyewash solution doubles as an effective wound wash solution and comes in handy when treating a range of injuries. Find out how to properly clean a wound in our blog.

How to Wash Eyes at a Plumbed Eyewash Station

Proper use of an eyewash station is quite similar to that of a portable one, the manufacturer may have specific eyewash station instructions you can refer to. All staff should be trained on how to operate the functions of a plumbed eyewash station.


If you are responsible for the health and safety of other staff you should ensure training is provided. If you are a member of staff and haven't been trained on the use of the eyewash station, ask your manager for a demonstration. 


  1. Make your way to the eyewash station as soon as your eye is contaminated. You may need the assistance of another person to get there safely with impaired vision. 
  2. The lever to activate the eyewash station should be clearly marked. Use the lever to turn the water stream on and adjust the pressure of the water. The pressure should be gentle enough not to hurt the eye when in the direct line of the stream. Test the temperature of the stream with a finger and adjust if too hot or cold.
  3. Bend over to tilt your head down and ensure the affected eye is at the lowest point so as not to spread any contaminant into the other eye. If both eyes are affected you can irrigate them at the same time, most plumbed eyewash stations are designed to do this.
  4. Allow the affected eye to enter the water stream. Hold your eye open with a thumb and finger if needed. Move your eye up and down and side to side to clear any contaminant from below the eyelids. The direction of flow should go from the inner to the outer corner of the eye.

How Long To Flush the Eye During an Eyewash

How long you flush your eye depends on how it became contaminated, how many contaminants got into your eye and the nature of the contaminant. You might also be able to refer to the emergency eyewash station instructions or eyewash bottle instructions beforehand as part of training so you are aware.


Generally, the minimum amount of time that the eye should be irrigated is 15 minutes. Refer to the table below to see how long the eyewash should be depending on what contaminated the eye.

  Contaminant

  Example

  Duration of Eyewash

Mild allergic reactions and irritations.

Dust, pollen.

5–10 minutes.

Moderate to severe irritants, chemicals that may cause acute toxicity when absorbed.

Bleach, formaldehyde, acetic acid.

10–20 minutes.

Corrosive chemicals.

Sulphuric acid.

30 minutes.

E Strong alkalines.

Strong alkalines.

60 minutes.

How to Help Someone Wash Their Eye

If another person needs to wash their eye they might need your help. If this is the case remember to tell someone nearby if you need to leave your duties. Do not leave a situation that could become dangerous. For example, if using a stove, don’t leave food cooking. Tell a team member or ask someone else to provide assistance to the injured person.


You can help someone wash their eye by doing the following:


  • Call 999 or 111 if needed.
  • Help them make their way to the eyewash station. They might not be able to see well or at all so ensure the path is clear for them. 
  • Turn on the eyewash station or hand them the eyewash bottle from its station if portable.
  • If the person cannot move, fetch the eyewash bottle for them if you use a portable eyewash station.
  • If the person can’t wash their own eye, help them to assume the position in the steps above and hold their eye open. Gently squeeze the eyewash solution into their eye. Refer to the steps above for the best way to wash eyes and tell them how to move their eye as it is being washed.
  • The person is likely to get wet during the procedure, you could hold a towel or bin bag to help keep them dry.


All workplaces that run the risk of an eye injury should have an eyewash station and have an eyewash station policy and procedure to be compliant with the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. Don’t put your staff at risk, find out where eyewash stations are required and what eyecare requirements and regulations you need to be aware of.

Please enter your details into the form below along with any questions or comments and a member of our team will be happy to provide you with more information:

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