Battery Room Safety Equipment: Eye Wash Stations
Battery room safety starts with preparation. Consider the hazards. Sure, forklift batteries are large and heavy, but with a state-of-the-art battery handling system, those concerns are taken care of. A battery room ventilation system will get rid of any excess hydrogen in the area.
Perhaps the greatest hazard in working with forklift batteries (beyond the above-listed, of course) is the presence of electrolyte. This caustic mixture of sulfuric acid and water can cause chemical burns. Even worse, if it splashes into the eyes, it can seriously and irreparably damage vision.
That's why OSHA and ANSI standards insist that battery rooms be equipped with eye wash stations and/or showers. Here are a few tips for choosing and installing these crucial pieces of safety equipment. While virtually any eye wash station will comply with OSHA's rules, these best practices conform to exacting ANSI standards. Most importantly, they make it easier to save someone's eyesight when disaster strikes.
1. Quick AccessThe OSHA standard that deals most directly with eye wash stations, 1910.151(c), simply states that, "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 emergency use."
Okay, but what exactly defines "quick?" OSHA doesn't say, but luckily, an ANSI standard gives us a little more detail. ANSI Z358.1 requires employers to install eye wash stations such that they can be reached within 10 seconds of exposure to a caustic substance. In the battery room, that translates to about 50 feet from batteries themselves.
2. Proximity to ChargersIf 50 feet away from battery stands is good, then 10 feet must be better, right? Not necessarily. In fact, forklift batteries and chargers carry a lot of electrical current. That's not something you want to drench with water.
Consider the splash radius before installing an eye wash station or a shower. Water and electricity don't mix.
3. Water Flow RateThe American National Standards Institute recognizes two types of emergency showers: plumbed and self-contained. Fully plumbed showers represent the gold standard for first aid, but they aren't always feasible for battery room applications. In fact, it's rare that a battery room ends up located in a fully plumbed section of the facility.
A self-contained unit will keep workers safe without major renovations. According to ANSI Z358.1, self-contained water sources should produce a flow rate of at least .4 gallons per minute for at least 15 minutes. Portable Eye Wash systems from Solus Group meet or exceed these requirements, and they even include a bacteriostative additive that preserves the solution, rendering it more effective than water alone.
4. InspectionHopefully you don't need your eye wash station much. It’s only there for emergencies. But that doesn't mean it can sit, forgotten and neglected, for months and years at a time.
Staff must test eye wash stations and showers regularly. They should track these inspections in a detailed log. The alternative is finding out your system is down when you need it most.
5. SignageYou might only have an instant to react to an emergency. That's why clear, legible signage is a must for eye wash stations in the battery room.
The Signage and Posting Kit from Solus Group includes an NFPA-compliant emergency eye wash sign.
No matter what model of eye wash station works for your facility, it is vital that all employees who might be subjected to electrolyte receive adequate training in the use of this equipment. Even a brand new, top-of-the-line Shower Eye Wash Station won't do your staff any good if they don't know how to use it.
The law requires employers to provide facilities for flushing eyes in forklift battery rooms. But by following the best practices outlined above, you can go above and beyond legal requirements to create the safest possible battery room. That’s a worthwhile goal.
Bodenburg, Noel and James Kaletta. “Lift trucks: Battery room safety tips.” MMH. Peerless Media LLC, 27 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.
“ "Medical services and first aid - 1910.151.” OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, 18 June 1998. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.