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Contaminated eyewash stations may threaten safety

In Minnesota, there is a possibility that some emergency eyewash stations may be improperly maintained. This could put workers in danger of contracting an infection in their eyes and skin from the tainted water. Eyewash stations are used when a person has come into contact with a dangerous chemical or material. The station's purpose is to wash away the hazardous substance with which the worker came into contact. Eyewash stations that are not properly maintained pose a significant threat to workers' health.

Workplaces, such as laboratories where HBV and HIV are present or that contain hazardous material production, are required to have these emergency stations. Medical facilities and areas with solutions of 0.1 percent or more formaldehyde that could splash into an employee's eyes should also have them. It is imperative that these eyewash facilities be properly maintained, or serious eye or skin infections could result in on-the-job injuries.

Infectious organisms such as Pseudomonas, Acanthamoeba and Legionella can live and reproduce in untreated or stagnant water. Eyewash stations that are not regularly and properly maintained may contain thriving colonies of these organisms. An infosheet issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says these hazards can be eliminated by activating the emergency stations weekly if they are attached to the plumbing system of the building. Eyewash stations that are self-contained should be maintained according to the maintenance instructions of the manufacturer.

Those who are injured in a workplace accident or who develop an occupational disease may be eligible to apply for workers' compensation benefits. An attorney who has experience in this area can often assist with the preparation and filing of the required claim.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety, "OSHA Warns of Contaminated Eyewash Water", Aug. 7, 2015

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