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OSHA issues warning about contaminated eyewash stations

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued an Infosheet regarding the health hazards that could be present in the water of improperly maintained eyewash stations. The purpose of the Infosheet is to provide updated eyewash safety information to protect workers in Louisiana and nationwide.

According to OSHA, eyewash stations are required in all workplaces where corrosive chemicals are used. They must also be present in HIV and HBV research laboratories and production facilities. Eyewash stations are intended to mitigate eye injuries after accidental exposure to irritants or biological agents. However, if the stations are not properly maintained, the water within the unit can become contaminated with organisms like Acanthamoeba, Pseudomonas and Legionella, which can cause eye infections. Other possible health problems include severe lung disease, such as pneumonia, and permanent vision loss. Workers with skin damage or compromised immune systems are more susceptible to illnesses from contaminated water.

In order to prevent the water in eyewash stations from becoming contaminated, employers must flush the systems and follow manufacturer instructions regarding maintenance. Only solutions designed for eyewashing should be used in the units.

Louisiana workers who suffer an eye injury on the job may be eligible to file for workers' compensation benefits. These benefits cover medical expenses and pay a portion of a worker's salary while they recover from their injury. Some workers find it helpful to consult with a lawyer while preparing their claim to ensure all required documentation is included and all deadlines are met. The assistance of a lawyer can also be helpful should the claim be disputed.

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