Friday, July 19, 2013

List of corrosive materials requiring emergency eyewashes and showers

Dear Mr. P***:

Thank you for your November 9, 2007 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. You expressed concerns regarding OSHA's standards concerning eyewash and shower facilities. Your paraphrased scenario and our response follow.

Scenario: Many in the building industry are providing emergency eyewashes and emergency showers in very low-level hazard locations (e.g., a boiler room in an apartment house, dormitory, etc.) because of the ambiguous language of the standards. Where acids are used in BSL-3 laboratories, the method of compliance is rather straight-forward. In lower-level hazard applications, many in the industry are perplexed as to when these fixtures are required. To facilitate compliance with 29 CFR 1910.151(c) and 29 CFR 1926.50(g), guidance from your office is needed.

Question 1: When are eyewash and shower fixtures required?

Response: The OSHA requirements for emergency eyewashes and showers, found at 29 CFR 1910.151(c) and 29 CFR 1926.50(g), specify: "Where 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."

Question 2: What are the definition of "corrosive materials" and the definition of "exposed to"?

Response: Although the standards discussed above do not define these terms, OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard is instructive. The standard at 29 CFR 1910.1200, Appendix A, defines a corrosive as:

A chemical that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in, living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact. For example, a chemical is considered to be corrosive if, when tested on the intact skin of albino rabbits by the method described by the U.S. Department of Transportation in appendix A to 49 CFR part 173, it destroys or changes irreversibly the structure of the tissue at the site of contact following an exposure period of four hours. This term shall not refer to action on inanimate surfaces.
Generally speaking, corrosive materials have a very low pH (acids) or a very high pH (bases). Strong bases are usually more corrosive than acids. Examples of corrosive materials are sodium hydroxide (lye) and sulfuric acid.

As defined in 29 CFR 1910.1200(c),
"Exposure" or "exposed" means that an employee is subjected in the course of employment to a chemical that is a physical or health hazard, and includes potential (e.g.,, accidental or possible) exposure. "Subjected" in terms of health hazards includes any route of entry (e.g., inhalation, ingestion, skin contact or absorption.)
Question 3: Can you provide a listing of corrosive materials and concentrations that would trigger the requirement for emergency eyewashes and emergency showers?

OSHA does not have a listing of corrosive materials that would require an eyewash and/or emergency shower. As 29 CFR 1910.151(c) and 29 CFR 1926.50(g) state, an eyewash and/or safety shower would be required where an employee's eyes and body may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials. One source of information on the corrosive nature of a chemical would be the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product(s) being used which must accompany those products. See 29 CFR 1910.1200(g). In addition, the employer must determine if employees can or will be exposed during the course of their duties to hazardous materials in such a way that the protections of an eyewash or emergency shower would be necessary. If hazardous materials are present at a worksite in such a way that exposure could not occur (for example, in sealed containers that will not be opened, or caustic materials in building piping), then an eyewash or emergency shower would not be necessary. However, if the building piping containing caustic materials has, at certain locations, a spigot or tap from which the contents are to be sampled or withdrawn and employees are expected to perform such tasks, then, certainly, an eyewash and/or emergency shower would be needed where this task is to occur.

Under 29 CFR 1910.132(d), employers must perform a hazard assessment at their worksites to determine if personal protective equipment would be needed to protect their employees. Additionally, 29 CFR 1910.133(a)(1) specifically requires the use of eye and face protection when employees would be exposed to "liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids. . . . ," among other things. Therefore, an employer's hazard determination, conducted under the requirements of these standards, will help determine the necessity for PPE, as well as the necessity for eyewashes or showers as means of protecting employees from exposure to injurious corrosive materials.

Although the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York is not covered by Federal OSHA because it is a state government agency (see 29 USC 652(5)), it is covered by the New York Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) program, which regulates the workplace safety and health of state and local government employees only. Private-sector employees in New York are covered by Federal OSHA. Therefore, state and local government employers in the State of New York must comply with State occupational safety and health requirements.

As a condition of plan approval, States are required to adopt and enforce occupational safety and health standards that are at least as effective as those promulgated by Federal OSHA 29 USC 667(c)(2). PESH has adopted the Federal OSHA standards, 12 NY ADC 800.3. These standards must be enforced at least as effectively as they are by Federal OSHA 29 USC 667(c)(2). If you would like further information regarding the enforcement of PEHA requirements, you may contact the New York Public Employee Safety and Health Program at:
New York Public Employee Safety and Health Program
State Office Campus Building 12, Room 158
Albany, New York 12240

Normand Labbe, Program Manager
(518) 457-1263
(518) 457-5545 FAX

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