Eyewashes & Safety Showers

eyewash station

In case of chemical exposure, flush eyes with cool water for at least 15 minutes.

No matter what your job, many safety precautions and types of emergency equipment must be used to ensure the health of faculty, staff and students at Texas Tech. Even when all safety precautions are heeded, accidents can still occur.

Whether you are working in the lab, in the food industry, or working with cleaning solutions, hazardous chemicals can affect even the most experienced employees. Accidents involving hazardous chemicals can be especially severe. Because some chemicals can irritate or damage skin upon contact, affected areas should be flushed with water as soon as possible. Even when only a small amount of a harmful substance is splashed on the skin, the substance must be washed from the area immediately.

Eyewashes and safety showers are emergency systems used to protect you from injury in case of contact with hazardous chemicals, chemical compounds or fire. The four basic ways these safety systems are used include:

  1. Dilution—diluting the chemicals that are on the skin or in the eyes to a non-harmful level.
  2. Warming/cooling—warming or cooling the body or eyes because of a change in temperature due to chemical exposure.
  3. Irrigation—flushing the chemicals out of the eyes or off the skin.
  4. Extinguishment—putting out fires on clothing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has two types of regulations, general and specific, that apply to emergency shower and eyewash station equipment designed to promote eye safety under certain work conditions. The first is a general requirement for all facilities that require the installation of an emergency shower or eyewash station equipment as a form of first aid [29 CFR 1910.151 (c)]. It states:

“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 immediate emergency use.”

The second OSHA regulation specifies certain activities for which emergency eyewash equipment must be available. These include:

  • activities utilizing an open-surface tank
  • storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia
  • powered industrial trucks
  • pulp, paper and paperboard manufacturing
  • telecommunications
  • handling hazardous materials

Both OSHA regulations specify where and when emergency eyewash and shower equipment must be available. However, they do not specify minimum operating or installation requirements.

While not having the force of a regulation under the OSH Act, the current American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard addressing emergency eyewash and shower equipment (ANSI [Z]358.1-2009) provides for eyewash and shower equipment in appropriate situations when employees are exposed to hazardous materials. ANSI’s definition of “hazardous material” includes caustics, as well as additional substances and compounds that have the capability of producing adverse effects on the health and safety of humans. ANSI’s standard also provides detail with respect to the location, installation, nature, and maintenance of eyewash and shower equipment.

Safety Shower and Eyewash Requirements

safety shower

Make sure you know the location of all emergency equipment, even if you are working in a new area for only a brief time.

There are two types of emergency showers: plumbed shower—an emergency shower permanently connected to a source of potable water—and self-contained shower—a shower that contains its own flushing fluid and must be refilled or replaced after use. According to ANSI, the following are requirements for safety shower heads and valves:

  • Heads positioned 82 inches to 96 inches from floor
  • Spray pattern will have a minimum diameter of 20 inches at 60 inches above the floor
  • Flow rate of 20 gallons per minute (GPM) at 30 pounds per square inch (PSI)
  • The center of the spray pattern shall be located at least 16 inches from any obstruction
  • Valves activate in one second or less
  • Stay-open valve (no use of hands)
  • Valve remains open until the user shuts it off

There are two types of eyewash stations: plumbed eyewash station—an eyewash unit permanently connected to a source of potable water—and gravity-fed eyewash station—an eyewash device that contains its own flushing fluid and must be refilled or replaced after use. The following are ANSI requirements for eyewash station heads and valves:

  • Heads positioned 33 inches to 45 inches from floor
  • Positioned 6 inches from wall or nearest obstruction
  • 0.4 GPM for 15 minutes for plumbed units, which must provide flushing fluid at 30 PSI
  • 0.4 GPM for 15 minutes for gravity-fed units
  • Valves activate in one second or less
  • Stay-open valve (leaving hands free)

Installation

Safety showers and eyewash stations should be in a well-lit and unobstructed area that is within 10 or fewer seconds’ reach of each employee. If the chemical is left in the eye or on the body for even seconds too long, permanent scarring may result. Therefore, the most important step in treatment is getting to the eyewash or shower as quickly as possible, so the affected area may be washed thoroughly before the chemical can cause further damage. Shower and eyewash stations should be identified with a sign.

Training

All employees should also be trained on how to use the safety equipment, regardless of experience. Each person should be familiar with the controls and know how to operate the device. The safety coordinator or instructor can provide a quick demonstration on the operation of the eyewash station. Directions for use of safety equipment should be written, available and frequently reviewed. Training should be simplified so that there is only one emergency procedure that must be followed whenever eyewashes and safety showers are needed.

Maintenance

Regardless of how well a safety shower or eyewash is installed, if it is not properly maintained and tested, it is of little or no use. Plumbed eyewash stations and emergency showers should be activated weekly by a laboratory member to verify proper operation. All showers and eyewash stations must be inspected annually by EH&S to make sure they meet with ANSI [Z]358.1 requirements. Maintenance records should show the date of inspections and the name of the inspector. If you need to schedule an inspection, contact EH&S at 742-3876.

Best Practices

To operate the eyewash station properly, you need to depress the handle or lever first, for a few seconds. This is to clear the eyewash of any water that is already in the system. You want absolutely fresh water in your eyes. Hold your eyelids open with two fingers and run the water in your eyes for 15 minutes. And as soon as you get something in your eyes, have someone call emergency personnel immediately. Do not wait!

In cases when a shower must be used following chemical contact, equipment and clothing must be removed once the shower has been activated. Remember, modesty has no place in emergency situations. Again, appropriate medical help must be contacted immediately. The affected person should always remain in the shower or continue flushing the eyes for no less than 15 minutes, or until EMS arrives.

Top 10 Training Tips

The following checklist offers additional information for training all personnel in the proper use of eyewash and safety shower facilities:

  1. In case of chemical exposure, flush skin or eyes with cool water for at least 15 minutes. DO NOT RUB!
  2. Get medical assistance immediately following flushing.
  3. If possible, continue flushing while on the way to receive medical help.
  4. Know the effects of chemicals with which you are working. Read, ask questions about, and understand safety data sheets for each chemical with which you work.
  5. Always wear personal protective equipment.
  6. Learn the location and use of all emergency equipment, even if you are working in a new area for only a brief time.
  7. Know how to help others reach showers or eyewashes and how to help them get medical assistance.
  8. Hold your eyes open with your hands while using an eyewash to be sure water reaches the eyes.
  9. Remove contaminated clothing after the shower has been activated.
  10. Immediately wash off even small amounts of chemicals

These tips are available in a downloadable PDF for your convenience. Download Now!!

This information is not exhaustive and should not be construed as containing all the necessary compliance, safety, or warning information available. Please make sure you consult with EH&S or appropriate supervisors for all safety information and procedures.

If you have any comments or questions, please email safety@ttu.edu.

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