Eyewash and Shower Equipment Goes Far to Protect Workers
And the ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard continues to be recognized on both a national and a global basis by engineers, building operators, and regulatory entities.
It is hard to argue against the importance of the need for eyewashes
and showers in the workplace, given the reported
injuries to and incident statistics of workers who require medical
treatment of some kind. Take eye injuries, for example—there
are 800,000 reported eye injuries in the American workforce each
year, many of which are caused by exposure to chemical hazards.
Factoring in direct costs of the injuries covered by worker’s compensation,
disability benefits, and indirect costs ranging from lost
work time and productivity to potential litigation expenses to
reduced employee morale after an incident, the costs of an eye
injury can reach more that $30,000.
More importantly, any injury that results in permanent or
temporary vision loss by the employee is one injury too many.
Ideally, elimination of the hazard would reduce the number of
incidents, but that is not always possible even with the most wellthought-
out work environment with the best-trained employees;
accidents do happen. And when they do, having properly
working eyewash and shower equipment for immediate use is
crucial to mitigating damage to skin and eye tissue caused by
chemicals or other damaging contaminants.
Even though emergency eyewash and shower equipment has
been in use for more than 80 years, not until 1981 was a voluntary
standard covering this type of equipment established in the United
States. For nearly 35 years, the ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard has
been the authoritative document for equipment manufacturers
because it specifies minimum performance criteria for flow rates,
temperature, and drenching patterns—all characteristics that are
important for a user to receive adequate rinsing of a contaminant
in an emergency situation. Equally important are the requirements
and maintenance directives for the installer to ensure the equipment
is available in proper working condition, should the need for
the use of the equipment arise.
Recognition in U.S. and International Jurisdictions
For these reasons, the ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard continues to
be recognized on both a national and a global basis by engineers,
building operators, and regulatory entities responsible for workplace
safety. In this country, several states have incorporated the
standard directly into their own occupational safety and health
codes, making compliance with the standard mandatory in those
jurisdictions. While OSHA does not specify the document in its
Code of Federal Regulations, the agency does accept the standard
as a means of complying with its medical and first aid services rule
[29 CFR Part 1910.151(c)] that requires employers to provide adequate
flushing facilities in work areas where corrosive materials are
present. The accessibility to suitable emergency shower and eyewash
equipment is also a provision in several of OSHA’s substancespecific
regulations. Much information through OSHA’s standard
letters of interpretation supports the agency’s recognition of the
standard, making employer familiarity and compliance with the
ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard even more important to providing a
Acceptance of the standard reaches far beyond the United
States. There is no Canadian national standard that addresses the
design or placement of emergency flushing equipment; given the
absence of such a document, the ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 document is
generally used as a guide, and in some Canadian provinces (Manitoba,
for example), it is referenced by incorporation into the jurisdiction’s
relevant legislation. Likewise, the recently published Australian
national standard on eyewash and shower equipment is
based, in large part, on the criteria set forth in the U.S. standard.
Even through the development of the European standards, the
ANSI/ISEA standard is consulted in an effort to harmonize the
criteria where possible.
And the use of the standard extends beyond occupational safety
and health codes. Building and plumbing engineers and architects
are familiar with the installation criteria of the ANSI/ISEA standard
because both the International Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code make specific reference to it. Even the Saudi
Arabian building code has adopted the U.S. standard.
But regardless of what country, code, or regulation makes reference
to the eyewash and shower standard, a worker’s need to
have adequate and properly working equipment is the same.
Therefore, it is necessary for all risk managers, equipment
installers, and employees to understand the details of the standard
in order to make informed decisions about providing and using
When planning for the selection and installation of proper equipment,
it is important to assess the work area and potential harmful
exposures. A detailed assessment will ensure the appropriate
equipment is chosen for a given work environment where certain
risk exposures are assumed. For example, an eyewash may be adequate
for a dental office where expected exposure is limited to a
minor splash. Yet such equipment may not be suitable for a
research facility where large quantities of caustic materials are present.
Equipment manufacturers can be a valuable resource to assist
in evaluating the precise needs of a work area.
The ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard provides detailed information
on the proper installation of the emergency fixture, be it a shower
or eye/face wash, and whether it is plumbed into a water supply or
is a self-contained unit.
Certain elements of equipment performance and installation
are universal for all product types. These include:
• Temperature of flushing fluid. While the type of flushing
may vary depending on the device (potable water for
plumbed units, solution of potable water and preservative, or
a sealed fluid cartridge), the temperature of the delivered
fluid must be tepid. Providing tepid flushing fluid is critical
to ensuring the victim continues flushing for the required 15-
minutes, the time needed to adequately remove the hazardous
contaminate from the skin or cool eye tissue that has
been exposed to burning chemicals.
• Reachable within 10 seconds or less. ANSI/ISEA Z358.1
requires that emergency drenching equipment must be
located within 10 seconds from the hazard. Depending on the
layout of the work environment, obstacles to the path of
travel, the number of workers, equipment in the area, and
severity of the material, 10 seconds can equate to distances of
10 to 100 feet for an injured worker to reach the facility. If
potential injurious chemicals are used and stored in numerous
areas of the workplace, several flushing stations may be
required to meet this requirement.
• Location and accessibility. Equipment must be installed
in areas that are well lit and with visible signage quickly identifying
the location of the emergency unit. The presence of
other potential hazards that may be adjacent to the path of
travel that might cause further injury, such as protruding wall
fixtures in an area, or the creation of a slip hazard once the
equipment is activated, also should be considered. Requiring
the potential user to pass through a door may impede immediate
access to the equipment and, for this reason, a door is
considered to be an obstruction. Where a risk assessment has
determined that the hazard is not corrosive, one intervening
door is permissible, provided it opens in the same direction of
travel as the person attempting to reach the emergency equipment
and the door is equipped with a closing mechanism that
cannot be locked.
• Maintenance and training. Plumbed equipment must be
operated on a weekly basis. This frequency reduces the
chance of sediment buildup and the growth of microbial hazards
in stagnant water in the supply line. Manufacturer’s
instructions are to be followed when maintaining self-contained
units. Finally, all potential users must be trained on the
use of equipment and should be retrained periodically, particular
when there has been a change in the equipment provided
or in the facility’s layout. Also, workers should be made aware
that the presence of emergency equipment does not replace
the need to utilize primary personal protective devices, such
as eye and face protection, gloves, and protective apparel.
This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.