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OSHA reminds employers about eyewash hygiene standards

An information sheet released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in July 2015 reminds employers in Minnesota and around the country about the importance of properly maintaining workplace eyewash facilities. Eyewash stations are required in many HBV and HIV research and production facilities and any workplaces where corrosive chemicals are present. According to the safety agency, the water in these eye washing stations may become contaminated by organisms such as Pseudomonas, Legionella and Acanthamoeba when maintenance efforts are lacking.

Organisms such as these thrive in stagnant water, and their numbers multiply quickly when they are left undisturbed. Workers using a poorly maintained eyewash station to remove chemicals or objects from their eyes may become infected when they come into contact with or inhale these organisms. Workers with compromised immune systems or skin damage are at particular risk of becoming ill after coming into contact with contaminated water.

Maintenance instructions and protocols are generally provided by the manufacturers of eyewash stations. The systems usually require flushing at regular intervals, and they should only be stocked with solutions designed to cause no damage to eyes. Safety standards established by the International Safety Equipment Association and the American National Standards Institute call for plumbed eyewash systems to be activated on a weekly basis to reduce the likelihood of contamination.

Workers who perform their duties in hazardous environments expect their employers to take all reasonable steps to ensure reduce workplace injuries, but no amount of preparation can prevent all accidents. Minnesota workers injured while on the job may qualify for benefits under the state's workers' compensation program, but the application procedure can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it. An attorney with experience in this area could assist injured workers with their compensation claims and explain the type of medical documentation that should be submitted.

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