Physician Practice

Q&A: What does OSHA say about eyewash stations in our doctor's office?

Physician Practice Insider, September 22, 2015

Q: The [HCPro OSHA] manual says that the eyewash station must be plumbed, but that you can also have the squeeze bottles for backup/alternative locations in the facility. We are a small location and used to have a plumbed eyewash station but do not any longer.

Since we are a small allergy clinic doctor's office, and the majority of items we work with are allergy extracts (not under a hood but drawing and mixing) and normal household items—such as drain cleaner—do we require the eyewash station to be plumbed, or can we keep just the squeeze bottles like we have now? We want to be sure we are in compliance but don't know if our size would exempt us from the plumbed requirement.

A: The size of an office never exempts it from OSHA rules or, in this case, potentially an eyewash station. OSHA says that if you use chemicals that are listed as "caustic" or "corrosive," a plumbed eyewash station is required. The eyewash solution in a bottle is never enough if you have the above chemicals.

You should review your written list of chemicals. Likely caustic or corrosive chemicals include:

  • Autoclave cleaner
  • Glutaraldehyde
  • Lime-A-Way®
  • Drain cleaner
  • Potassium hydroxide (KOH), used for examination of skin scrapings for fungus

Please understand that these clinic situations are rarely straightforward. OSHA does not care that some caustic/corrosive hazardous chemicals may be used by folks in their home. The issue is worker protection from hazardous chemicals.

Editor's note: Marge McFarlane, PhD, MT(ASCP), CHSP, CHFM, HEM, MEP, CHEP, principal of Superior Performance, LLC, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, answered this question in the September issue of Medical Environment Update.

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