Weekly Checkup: 5 Essential Tests for Emergency Safety Showers and Eyewash Stations

Weekly Checkup: 5 Essential Tests for Emergency Safety Showers and Eyewash Stations

This weekly inspection and testing regimen will promote workplace safety through regulatory adherence.

In workplaces handling hazardous materials, every second counts in the event of exposure. Emergency shower and eyewash stations offer immediate on-the-spot decontamination, crucial for minimizing the effects of chemical exposure within the first 10-15 seconds.

To uphold safety standards, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets requirements for these emergency devices, mandating their accessibility within 10 seconds of an incident. Yet, many safety showers and eyewashes are currently out of compliance with ANSI regulations, creating greater risk for worker injuries and leaving employers open to penalties and fines from OSHA. According to a study done by a large emergency equipment manufacturer, approximately 88 percent of emergency showers and eyewash stations are not in full compliance with standards detailed in ANSI/ISEA Z358.1–2014.

ANSI/ISEA Z358 mandates that weekly activations be done on a weekly basis to visually check that emergency showers and eyewashes are operating correctly, as well as to flush the plumbing so that water does not stagnate. It’s common to hear of employers struggling to meet these requirements, since testing emergency showers and eyewashes can be a painstakingly slow and messy process. However, there are certain testing tools that can expedite this process.

When conducting weekly activations, there are five important compliance requirements that are important to check if your safety showers and eyewash stations meet.

Mechanical Performance

Emergency safety showers and eyewash stations rely on various mechanical components to deliver water promptly and effectively during emergency situations. Valves, levers, and activation mechanisms must be fully operational and free of obstructions. Any malfunction in these parts can cause delays in water flow, compromising decontamination efforts and potentially exacerbating injuries.

During weekly testing, it is essential to conduct a thorough inspection of all mechanical components, ensuring their functionality and addressing any issues promptly.

Water Clarity

The clarity of the water flowing from emergency safety showers and eyewash stations is paramount to ensure proper decontamination. Contaminated water can worsen injuries and introduce additional hazards to the affected individual.

During weekly testing, activate the unit and observe the stream for any discoloration, cloudiness, or foreign particles. If the water appears murky or contaminated, immediate action must be taken to flush the system and address the underlying issues. Regular monitoring of water clarity helps maintain the effectiveness of emergency decontamination procedures and ensures the safety of employees.

Spray Diameter

According to ANSI/ISEA Z358.1–2014 standards, the spray pattern from emergency safety showers and eyewash stations must meet specific size requirements to ensure adequate coverage for the eyes, face, and body of the affected individual. At a height of 60 inches above the floor, the water pattern should have a diameter of at least 20 inches. This ensures comprehensive coverage, allowing for effective decontamination in emergency situations.

During weekly testing, it is essential to utilize a measuring device to confirm that the spray pattern meets this standard. Adjustments may be necessary to ensure optimal coverage and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Flow Rate

An adequate flow rate is essential to deliver a sufficient volume of water for effective irrigation and decontamination during an emergency. ANSI/ISEA Z358.1–2014 mandates minimum water pressure and flow rate requirements to ensure optimal performance of emergency safety showers and eyewash stations. Plumbed emergency drench showers and eyewashes require a minimum water pressure of 30 pounds per square inch (PSI), with typical facilities supplying their fixtures with at least 45 PSI inlet supply pressure.

Additionally, the standard specifies minimum flow rates of at least 20 gallons per minute (GPM) for drench showers and 0.4 GPM for eyewashes. Confirming flow rates with the equipment manufacturer ensures compliance and effective emergency response capabilities. Insufficient flow rates can impede the decontamination process, potentially delaying treatment and increasing the risk of injury to affected individuals. Therefore, regular monitoring of flow rates is essential to maintain the functionality of emergency safety showers and eyewash stations.

Water Temperature

Maintaining an appropriate water temperature is critical to prevent further injury and enhance the comfort of the affected individual during decontamination. ANSI/ISEA Z358.1–2014 defines tepid water as ranging from 60–100°F (15.6–37.8°C). Lukewarm (tepid) water is required for the full 15-minute flush, as it encourages affected users to continue flushing for the entire duration.

Fluid that is too cold or too hot can deter flushing for the full 15 minutes and may exacerbate bodily injuries or chemical interactions with the eyes and skin. Maintaining tepid water temperatures helps ensure the effectiveness of emergency decontamination procedures and promotes the safety and well-being of employees.

By adhering to these weekly testing protocols and promptly addressing non-compliance, employers uphold safety standards, protect employee health, and mitigate regulatory risks. Prioritizing the maintenance of emergency safety equipment fosters a culture of preparedness and safety in the workplace. Regular testing and maintenance ensure the reliability and effectiveness of emergency safety showers and eyewash stations, providing employees with the necessary resources for prompt and effective decontamination in the event of exposure to hazardous materials.

This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2023 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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