OSHRC Docket No. 82-0899


Before:  BUCKLEY, Chairman, and CLEARY, Commissioner.


This case is before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission under 29 U.S.C. 661(i), section 12(j) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 U.S.C. 651-678 ("the Act").  The Commission is an adjudicatory agency, independent of the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  It was established to resolve disputes arising out of enforcement actions brought by the Secretary of Labor under the Act and has no regulatory functions.  See section 10(c) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 659(c).

The issue in the case is whether Bridgeport Brass Company ("Bridgeport") violated the occupational safety standard at 29 C.F.R. 1910.151(c) [[1]] in that certain facilities for emergency drenching of employees' eyes and skin were not sufficiently accessible to employees delivering sulfuric acid.  The administrative law judge found that Bridgeport violated the standard as alleged by the Secretary of Labor's citation.  We reverse the judge's decision and vacate the citation.

The case was submitted on stipulated facts.  Bridgeport maintains an outdoor storage tank for sulfuric acid of 4000 gallon capacity at Seymour, Connecticut.   On infrequent occasions,[[2]] Bridgeport employees transfer acid from a truck into the tank.  Two of Bridgeport's employees participate in each delivery of acid.   The stipulation states that leaks have occurred during the delivery of corrosives at other locations at Bridgeport's workplace.  The tank is located adjacent to a building.  The position where the truck is connected to the tank during an acid delivery is 16 feet from the door of the building.  Inside the building and along the wall in which the door is located is an eyewash fountain 7 1/2 feet from the door.   Along the same wall, 20 feet from the door, is a safety shower.

The Secretary and Bridgeport agree that the eyewash fountain and safety shower are suitable facilities for quick drenching of the eyes or body.  However, the Secretary contends that their location renders them unavailable for immediate emergency use within the meaning of the standard.  The Secretary is concerned that an employee engaged in acid delivery might get acid in his eyes and that this would make it difficult for the employee, who is outside the building, to locate the drenching facilities inside the building. The Secretary notes that the employee's path would be obstructed by the door, and perhaps by the tank itself and the delivery truck and lines.  Bridgeport argues that its facilities were readily available in that an employee would need to take only five or six steps to reach the door and the eyewash and shower were only a few steps from the door.  Bridgeport also notes that the indoor facilities are not subject to freezing.

The purpose of section 1910.151(c) is to assure that employees who work with corrosive chemicals have facilities available to wash such chemicals from their eyes or body before they suffer injury.  Cf. Plessey, Inc., 74 OSAHRC 77/C1, 2 BNA OSHC 1302, 1974-75 CCH OSHD 18,907 (No. 946, 1974) (interpreting 29 C.F.R. 1910.94(d)(9)(vii)).  Whether an employer's facilities are adequate to comply with the standard depends on the particular circumstances present at the workplace, including the nature and amount of corrosive materials to which employees are exposed, the configuration of the work area, and the distance between the spot where corrosive chemicals are used and the drenching facilities.  Gibson Discount Center, Store No. 15, 78 OSAHRC 30/C1, 6 BNA OSHC 1526, 1978 CCH OSHD 22,669 (No. 14657, 1978).

In this case, there is no dispute that the facilities provided by Bridgeport were suitable for flushing corrosive materials from the eyes and body of an employee.   Nor does the Secretary contend that the facilities were at too great a distance from the point on the tank where the delivery connection is made.  The only fault the Secretary finds with Bridgeport's facilities is that the path an employee would have to take to reach them is not entirely straight and unobstructed.  The obstructions that concern the Secretary include the tank itself, the delivery truck and lines, and the door into the building containing the eyewash and shower.

We conclude that there was not an unreasonable impediment to employees reaching the emergency drenching facilities.  It is sometimes necessary for persons to enter or leave a building through a door, or to move from one room in a building to another, under emergency conditions.  If an employee is temporarily blinded he will be unable to find an eyewash without assistance in any event.  Moreover, it is evident that it would not be possible to maintain an eyewash and shower outside during the winter.

The record also does not support the Secretary's argument that the tank truck and delivery lines would obstruct employees from reaching the eyewash and shower.   The stipulation of facts contains nothing that supports the Secretary's argument.   The stipulation states that one employee checks the connection for leaks after delivery has begun but does not state whether the employee does this in a location where there is any obstruction between him and the door to the building.

Accordingly, the citation is vacated.



DATED:  SEP 17 1984

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[[1]] This standard provides:

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 or body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.

[[2]] The stipulation states that deliveries were made on September 18, 1980, May 14, 1981, and May 6, 1982.