Emergency showers and eyewash stations provides on-the-spot decontamination after exposure to any hazardous substance. They allow workers to flush away hazardous substances that can cause injury.
Accidental chemical exposures can still occur even with good engineering controls and safety precautions. As a result, it is essential to look beyond the use of goggles, face shields, and procedures for using personal protective equipment. Emergency showers and eyewash stations are a necessary backup to minimize the effects of accident exposure to chemicals.
Situation of these emergency showers/eyewash stations begins with a thorough job site evaluation to identify high-risk areas, potential hazards and emergency needs.
Selection of equipment
Once potential hazards are identified, the facility’s emergency eyewash and drench shower needs can be assessed. Equipment should be selected to address the level of potential exposure to workers and how many individuals could be affected. These equipment could be:
Emergency eyewash stations – Function
- Effective for spills, splashes, dust or debris likely to affect only the eyes
- Provides a controlled flow of water to both eyes simultaneously
- Delivers an uninterrupted, 15-minute supply of tepid water. Plumbed units can supply a greater volume of water available to the user-between 2.0 and 5.0 gallons (7.5 and 19.0 liters) per minute.
Emergency eye/face wash stations – Function
- Used when the entire face is at risk from spills, splashes, dust and debris
- Irrigates the eyes and face simultaneously
- Provides a large distribution pattern of water (minimum 3.0 gpm/11.4 lpm) to effectively rinse the entire face
Drench showers- Function
- Used when larger areas of the body is at risk
- Flushes a larger portion of the body but is not appropriate for the eyes (a combination eyewash and drench shower may be used to simultaneously flush the eyes and rinse larger areas of the body)
OSHA Requirements for Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations
In 29 CFR 1910.151 Medical Services and First Aid, it 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 immediate emergency use.” OSHA doesn’t provide more specifics regarding what constitutes “suitable” or how “immediate” is defined.
General requirements for Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations
- The path from the hazard to the safety shower shall be free of obstructions and tripping hazards.
- Water supply should be enough to provide at least 20 gallons per minute of water for 15 minutes (Section 4.1.2, 4.5.5).
- Hand free valve should and remain open until it is manually closed (Section 4.2, 4.1.5).
- The top of the water column shall not be lower than 82″ (208.3 cm) and no higher than 96″ (243.8 cm) above the surface floor the user is standing on(Section 5.1.3, 4.5.4).
- Center of the water column should be at least 16″ (40.6 cm) away from any obstruction (Section 4.1.4, 4.5.4).
- Actuator should be easily accessible and easily located. It should be no more than 69″ (173.3 cm) above the surface floor the user is standing on (Section 4.2).
- At 60″ (152.4 cm) above the floor, the water pattern should be 20″ (50.8 cm) in diameter (Section 4.1.4).
- If shower endiameter of unobstructed space (86.4 cm) (Section 4.3).
- Water temperature of safety shower station should be within 60 °F – 100 °F (16 °C – 38 °C).
- Safety shower stations should have highly visible and well lit signage.
- The path from the hazard to the Eyewash or Eye/Face wash shall be free of obstructions and tripping hazards.
- Eyewash station shall flush both eyes simultaneously within gauge guidelines (Eyewash gauge detailed in ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014) (Section 5.1.8).
- Eye or Eye/Face wash shall provide a controlled flow of water that is non-injurious to the user (Section 5.1.1).
- Nozzles and flushing fluid shall be protected from airborne contaminants (dust covers), and shall not require a separate motion by the operator when activating the equipment (section 5.1.3).
- Eyewashes must deliver 0.4 gpm for 15 minutes, Eye/Face washes must provide 3 gpm for 15 minutes.
- The top of the Eye or Eye/Face wash water flow must not fall below 33″ (83.8 cm) and can be no higher than 53″ (134.6 cm) from the floor surface floor the user is standing on (Section 5.4.4).
- The head or heads of the Ey away from any obstructions (Section 5.4.4).
- The valve must allow for 1 second operation and the valve shall remain open without the use of the operator’s hands until intentionally closed. (Section 5.1.4, 5.2).
- Manual or automatic actuators shall be easy to locate and readily accessible to the user (Section 5.2).
- Water temperature of Eye or Eye/Face wash station should be within 60 °F – 100 °F (16 °C – 38 °C).
- Eye or Eye/Face wash stations should have highly visible and well lit signage.
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