Should my workplace use plumbed or portable eyewash stations?
With more than 20,000 work-related eye injuries reported every year, it’s important to take eyewash safety seriously. OSHA regulations require that eyewash stations be available on any work site where employees could be exposed to injurious corrosive materials (see Emergency Eyewash Stations: What the Z358 Standard Means for Your Workplace to learn more).
But with a choice of plumbed or portable eyewash stations, how do you know what type is right for your team?
Plumbed Eyewash Stations
Plumbed eyewash stations are permanently connected to a water source. Since they rely on a plumbing system to get a supply of water, they're not a feasible option for every work site. Jobs that take place mainly outdoors and away from a dedicated facility will not be able to use a plumbed system.
Plumbed eyewash stations also require more work because they need to be carefully maintained. Poor maintenance can result in the growth of bacteria due to water remaining stagnant. Sediment can also build up in the lines, which can reduce the amount of water that is supplied to the eyes.
Portable Eyewash Stations
Portable eyewash stations consist of self-contained, gravity-fed units containing an approved sterile solution. They are more compact than the plumbed stations and they can be mounted in small or confined spaces. Their portability means they are suited for any work site, even if there is no access to plumbing. They are also less expensive than plumbed units.
One of the main downsides is that the fluid containers need to be replaced after each use and after a specified amount of time.
Which to Use in Your Workplace
If you have access to a water line, you have a choice between these types of eyewash stations. So, which is best?
The full answer will depend on the particular features of your workplace, including the size of the workforce and the hazards they face. If enough of your workers face chemical hazards, a plumbed station might make sense. This will only be the right choice, however, if your team is comfortable both with the additional expense and the maintenance schedule that comes with using a plumbed system.
For all other situations, a portable station generally makes more sense. It is cost- and space-efficient, portable, and requires minimal maintenance.
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