Mac's Safety Space: Is there anything left to say about eyewash stations?
Apparently, there is. (Who knew?)
Going back once again to devil in the details of Joint Commission surveys during the first six months of 2023, it was noted that among the highest risk findings were those relating to eyewash stations. It would seem that the findings in this regard tended to relate to:
- Not having eyewash stations where the chemical use in the environment would indicate the need for an eyewash station (sounds like a risk assessment to me)
- Access to an existing eyewash station is obstructed (if it’s important enough to have one, then it’s important enough not park stuff in front of it)
- Failure to appropriately maintain an eyewash station (generally, the weekly inspection/test of the eyewash, though I suppose some pesky surveyor who asks for evidence of the annual maintenance of the device or a risk assessment to indicate why you wouldn’t need to do the annual maintenance)
If I had to guess, the lion’s share of these findings are being generated during patient tracer activities and not so much during the building tour and (if I can climb a little further out on this limb) a considerable portion of those findings are being generated in the outpatient setting.
So, what does one do about that? I would advise keeping a very close eye on the chemicals used in the outpatient settings, particularly by the folks performing the environmental services portion of things and even more particularly if you have contract cleaning staff in the mix. There used to be a sense that disinfectant products had to be approved by your organization’s infection control committee (or your preventionist or some other learned folk); however, there is no specific requirement to do so. (If you’re interested in how the disinfectant selection process might look, you might find this article of use). At any rate, getting back to eyewash stations, you really need to know what chemicals the environmental services folks are using so you can be certain that what they are using is effective and safe and if it’s not the safest, you need to make sure that you have appropriate protection against occupational exposures to those products, which might lead you to be thinking about an eyewash station—or making recommendations for a safer product.
If there is a risk of occupational exposure to an injurious chemical, then you have to think about emergency response in the event of such an exposure (if that risk cannot be abated), as always, because it’s the right thing to do—not because of a surveyor’s mis- or over-interpretation of risk.
About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at email@example.com.