Many managers likely believe that eyewash stations are only necessary for industrial-type locations where powerful or potentially dangerous chemicals are used. That is not the case.
Eye injuries, of which there are about 300,000 annually in the U.S., can occur in just about any setting including grocery stores. While contact with chemicals, such as those used to clean cutting equipment, are a primary cause of eye injuries, thousands of eye injuries occur each year as a result of airborne dust, grit, sand, glass, wood, metal, and other particulates entering the eye.
To protect worker's eyes, here is what grocery store managers need to know:
- Seconds. The first few seconds after an accident are critical. Victims of an eye injury should be able to reach some type of eyewash station in 10 seconds; the equivalent of about 55 feet.
- Minutes. If a built-in eyewash station is installed, eyes should be rinsed for five minutes for non-chemical irritants; 15 to 20 minutes for more severe or chemical-related accidents; up to 60 if the worker's eyes are exposed to strong alkalis such as sodium, calcium hydroxide.
- Open and rotate. The worker should hold their eyelids open and rotate their eyeballs in all directions.
- Repeat. If irritation persists, repeat the process.
- No shower. Injured workers should not take a shower. The high rate of pressure on the eyes can further damage the eyes.
- Face and eyes. Know that eyewash cleaning solutions are for the face and eyes; they are not designed to treat skin or head rinsing; showers are for the head and skin rinsing.
- Visible. Eyewash stations or solutions should be easily visible, on the same floor, and near an emergency exit.
- All eye injuries, as with most all work-related injuries, must be reported to management.
- Eyewash fluids. Managers can also install supplemental eyewash “plastic stations” until a worker is brought to an emergency center. These are specially designed plastic bottles filled with a saline solution. Select bottles that have what is called a "wide-mouth" to help cover the entire eye when used.
- You decide. In some cases, the worker may decide to go back to work after using an installed or plastic eye washing station. This is a management decision, not the workers. It is usually best that the worker visits an emergency center to be sure the eyes are fine.