Friday, January 13, 2012

OSHA Interpretations regarding Safety Showers & Eye Washes

Question 1: We, as a company, have recommended to our customers that they comply with the requirements of ANSI Z358.1-2004, American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment. If a customer does so and the equipment is provided within the work area for immediate use by our own employees, have we made a reasonable effort to comply with 29 CFR 1910.151(c)?

Paragraph (c) of 29 CFR 1910.151 requires that suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing be provided within the work area for immediate use if an employee's eyes or body may be exposed to corrosive materials. The OSHA standard does not set specifications for emergency eyewash and shower equipment, but we agree that equipment that complies with ANSI requirements would usually meet the intent of the OSHA standard. It should also be noted that, in addition to the requirement for emergency flushing and drenching facilities, there are also requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) when employees are exposed to the hazards which corrosive chemicals present. PPE requirements are found in Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment, of 29 CFR §1910 and may include, but are not limited to, protection for the eyes, face, and hands, as well as protective clothing. The purpose of PPE is to prevent injury, whereas the purpose of the eye wash or shower is to minimize injury, should that first line of defense fail.

Question 2: Deliveries often occur at night or when the retail location is closed. When our driver arrives at the facility under these circumstances, he or she must use a key to enter the facility and the unloading area. The quick drenching facilities are located in the unloading area. Does the necessity of a key violate the accessibility requirement of the ANSI standard?

Although OSHA often refers employers to ANSI Z358.1-2004 for guidance in the installation and operation of quick drenching and flushing equipment, OSHA does not interpret ANSI standards; OSHA may only provide interpretations of its own regulations. OSHA has its own requirements for the location and accessibility of quick drenching or flushing facilities. 29 CFR 1910.151(c) states that "[w]here the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use" (emphasis added). While the need to use a key to unlock a door to reach the quick drenching or flushing facilities would ordinarily pose a problem, it appears that in your case your employee would already be inside the unloading area where the quick drenching facilities are located and where presumably any exposure to the injurious corrosive materials would occur.

Question 3: Who is responsible for providing the quick drenching and flushing facilities?

Every employer with employees exposed to the corrosive chemicals is responsible for the safety and health of their employees. A delivery company may comply with the requirement to provide quick drenching and flushing facilities in a number of ways. The delivery company may elect to provide self-contained, portable equipment on the delivery vehicle. A possibly more convenient option for compliance would be to use the facilities provided by the retail employer for the retail employees. We envision that, in the majority of cases, the retail employer will have employees similarly exposed to the corrosive chemicals and thus would be required to provide quick drenching and flushing facilities for their employees. The delivery and retail employers coordinate other elements of their business relationship, such as delivery time, location, and quantity; the coordination of safety and health responsibilities can and should be included in this process. If the retail employer does not provide these facilities or if facilities are provided but are not appropriately selected and located for immediate emergency use by the delivery employees, then the delivery employer would still be required to provide suitable quick drenching and flushing facilities for its employees. The delivery employer needs to evaluate the work process, assessing factors such as configuration of the work area, the corrosivity of the materials, and the potential created by the work process for the corrosive chemical to come into contact with the employee. The delivery employer would then train employees as to the hazards presented, select and require appropriate PPE, and provide suitable quick drenching and flushing facilities for immediate use by their employees.

Question 4: Are small businesses (e.g., retail stores) subject to 29 CFR 1910.151(c), if they handle corrosive liquid materials?

Yes. All employers, regardless of size, that have employees whose eyes or body may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials must provide quick drenching and flushing facilities.

Question 5: Is there a quantity of corrosive chemical that triggers the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.151(c)?

No, there is no threshold quantity of corrosive material that triggers the requirement. The determining factor for the application of the standard is the possible exposure of an employee to injury from contact with a corrosive material.

As you may know, a number of states administer their own occupational safety and health programs under plans approved and monitored by Federal OSHA. It is possible that some of your customers are located in these State Plan States. Therefore, employers in these states must comply with their own State's occupational safety and health requirements. As a condition of plan approval, States are required to adopt and enforce occupational safety and health standards and interpretations that are at least effective as those promulgated by Federal OSHA. However, some states may have different or more stringent requirements.

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