Fortunately, the ANSI Z358.1 American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment provides direction for both installation and maintenance of eyewash and drenching stations. This standard is not incorporated into the OSHA regulation, but OSHA references the standard in several interpretation letters as a recognized best practice.
Eye injuries can occur in many different locations, including:
- Production lines
- Fluid dispensing and waste collection areas
- Dip tanks
- Spray booths
- Areas with high dust levels
- Battery charging areas
ANSI recommends locating eyewash stations or drench showers no more than 10 seconds (about 55 feet) from the source of potential injury. They also suggest stations and showers are well lit or otherwise identified so they are easily found. The path to the station or shower must be well lit so they’re easily located.
The two basic types of eyewash stations and drench showers are plumbed and self-contained. There are then variations to each type that allow for the station to be heated, cooled and enclosed. In addition, combination units that include both a drench shower and an eyewash station are available for areas where the potential for eye and a body injuries exist.
Plumbed stations can be installed in areas with reliable water sources. Temperature and pressure should be adjusted to ensure that they will not cause further injury during their use.
Self-contained stations contain buffered or otherwise preserved water solutions and can be placed in areas where plumbed units aren’t practical. Like plumbed stations, water temperature should be considered. Many manufacturers provide heating and cooling blankets for self-contained stations.
Time and Temperature
A general rule of thumb is that the affected eyes or body part should be flushed for 15 to 20 minutes with tepid water (between 60-100°F). Water that is hotter than this can cause scalding, while water that’s too cold can cause hypothermia and discourage the victim from rinsing as long as they should. Tempering devices are available for both plumbed and self-contained stations to keep water or flushing solutions at a desirable temperature.
Maintenance and Inspections
Like all safety equipment, eyewash stations and drench showers need to be in good working order. Dust and debris should be removed regularly and the path to the eyewash should be checked for obstacles that would prevent its use.
Plumbed stations should be activated and flushed weekly to verify that they are still operable. Self-contained units should be visually checked to ensure that the fluid levels are still sufficient and that the buffered solution is still good. The average longevity of solutions ranges from three to six months for additives and up to two years for factory-sealed eyewash solution cartridges. In addition to weekly inspections, stations should be inspected annually to ensure that valves, flow patterns, heights and other installation features are still correct.
When something is in your eyes or on your skin, every second counts. When in the right location and properly working, eyewash stations and drench showers can help minimize the extent of injuries by quickly drenching an affected area and removing contaminants.