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Workers at risk of contaminated eyewash water

Staying safe at a job site includes a combination of accepted procedures followed by the employer as well as the actions employees take. However, there sometimes are details that are overlooked, such as maintaining eyewash water stations, which can lead to contamination and result in worker injuries. Pennsylvania workers should be aware of the risks they face if the eyewash station at their work site is not properly maintained.

Any work site where workers' eyes might be exposed to solutions that contain 0.1 percent or higher of formaldehyde must have eyewash stations, as well as work sites where research into HIV or HPV or production of these is being conducted. Other work sites that often have eyewash stations include research laboratories and medical facilities.

If the eyewash water in the stations is not properly maintained, it might become contaminated, posing health risks that can lead to workplace injuries. Though the water might be clean, if it is stagnant or untreated, organisms such as Legionella or Pseudomonas, which can cause infections if they come into contact with a worker's eye or skin, might grow. Workers who have compromised immune systems, due to lupus, cancer or recovery from an organ transplant, for example, face a higher risk, as do workers who have suffered skin damage or who have been exposed to hazardous materials or chemicals which have left eye or skin injuries.

An OSHA document on the topic recommends that employers do regular maintenance on their eyewash stations, following the manufacturer's recommendations, including using only approved solutions for washing eyes. Those who sustain eye injuries after using a contaminated station might want to speak with an attorney to determine if they are eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits.

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