Hopefully you’ve never had to use one yourself. But, you’ve likely seen or heard of emergency showers before. If not one of the other names this safety equipment goes by, such as safety shower or eyewash station.
You’re probably also aware that emergency showers are required in many workplaces. Although if your business doesn’t have one, you may be wondering what an emergency shower is. Or, when they are used.
In this post, we will cover what a safety shower is along with the different types available. Plus, how to use this emergency equipment in the event of a workplace accident.
So, if you’re curious about emergency eyewash and shower stations, keep reading!
Why Are Emergency Showers and Eyewash Units Important?
A safety shower is used for decontamination, as a form of emergency first aid. Specifically, flushing a worker’s body or clothes if they are exposed to hazardous substances. For instance, corrosive chemicals, acids, and airborne contaminants like dust particles.
When it comes to washing a chemical splash or other harmful substance from the body, time is of the essence. That’s because the first seconds after exposure are critical. Delaying treatment at a shower or eye/face wash station can result in serious and permanent injury.
In many workplaces, employees handle hazardous chemicals every day. And even with proper training and safety protocols—like wearing PPE—chemical exposure accidents can still happen. Therefore, shower and eyewash stations are necessary as a back-up measure.
Basically, emergency eyewash stations and showers are important for health & safety reasons. In fact, they can be a requirement for certain businesses; per The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
What are the Different Types of Safety Showers and Eye Wash Stations?
Emergency eyewash and shower equipment comes in a variety of configurations and use applications. Dependent on the workplace, they can be located indoors or outside.
Typically, units are plumbed-in and connected to a continuous supply of water. There are also self-contained showers and portable eyewash stations that use potable water. These are more common to sites with issues relating to reliable water supply. For example, a field location or other situations when it isn’t practical to connect a shower.
The water flow from portable equipment is often gravity fed. However, this means it may require a heating or cooling blanket to maintain an appropriate tepid water temperature. Especially, if the water tank is subject to hot or cold weather conditions. Water preservation or buffering solutions will be necessary, too. This ensures the water remains sterile and free of harmful bacteria.
Shower stations use large volumes of cascading water to wash away hazardous materials that have come in contact with a person’s body. Safety showers can also be used to flush and extinguish clothing fires.
Much like you might have at home, the shower fixture can be located overhead on a wall or ceiling. They may also be floor-mounted or set inside an enclosed cubicle for users’ privacy. A chain or lever is used for shower activation, either by hand or foot.
Eyewash stations are designed to flush out debris and contaminants from the eyes or face. The water sprays at a lower pressure and flow rate than shower equipment. This helps protect sensitive eye areas from further damage during irrigation.
Eye/face wash units may be fixed to a wall, pedestal mounted on the floor, or, set into a counter. Foot or hand peddle activations ensure the eyewash unit is easy to operate. Even when a user is experiencing limited vision. Dust covers protect spray heads from dirt or debris when the unit is not in use.
- Combination units include both shower head and eyewash facilities in one. However, each shower piece is operated independently (because eye/face wash units need a lower flow rate of flushing fluid than showers do).
- Drench hoses have a flexible, hand-held sprayer device. This allows the water supply to be directed to, and flush, a specific area of the body. Although they cannot be used to flush the eyes and body at the same time.
Regardless of type, there are several requirements that shower equipment must meet. As outlined by the American National Standards Institute. Or, specifically, its ANSI Z358.1-2014 standard. For instance, the water flow rate and water temperature that the safety shower provides.
How Do You Use a Safety Shower?
Emergency showers should be used immediately after an incident or exposure to a hazardous substance occurs.
Depending on the type of chemical exposure, it may be necessary to remove clothing before or during use. Because fabrics saturated with a corrosive chemical may prolong its contact with the skin, otherwise.
Emergency eyewash and shower equipment is designed for quick and easy operation. That means activation is often by using a foot or hand lever to engage a flow of water.
Use the shower to flush the affected area with copious quantities of water for at least 15 minutes. A longer rinsing and decontamination period may be necessary for harmful substances, like acids.
It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible following any shower first aid process. Because a chemical splash can still cause damage even after it is no longer visible on the skin.
What Is The Ideal Temperature for a Safety Shower?
A shower must be able to provide a continuous flow of tepid water. Meaning a water supply between 60-100 degrees Fahrenheit (16-38 degrees Celsius).
Rinsing with tepid water is necessary for two reasons. First, cold water could put the body into a state of shock or cause hypothermia. Secondly, hot water can burn or further damage skin or eyes exposed to a hazardous material.
Plumbed equipment usually has a tempering valve or heating element to maintain its temperature. Stainless steel pipes and drench hoses at outdoor stations likely require insulation wraps relevant to the climate. Likewise, portable eyewash or showers often need a jacket around the potable water tank to maintain its temperature.
What Kind Of Flushing Fluid Can Be Used?
Shower safety equipment uses water to flush the body and eyes. As described above, the water temperature must be tepid to avoid burn or hypothermia risks.
The water must also be sterile and free of bacteria to avoid additional injury or damage to the body. This is especially important for units with a self-contained water source, like a personal eyewash bottle. Therefore, it may be necessary to introduce additives (like a preservative) to the container.
A shower head must supply at least 20 gallons of water per minute (gpm) for a 15 minute duration.
Eyewash equipment must deliver a water flow between 0.4 and 3 gpm for 15 minutes (specific to the type of unit). Dust covers are necessary for eye/face wash units to protect its spray nozzles.
Where Do I Install An Emergency Shower?
ANSI recommends installing safety showers no more than 10 seconds from a potential hazard site. This equates to a distance of around 55 feet.
Depending on your workplace, the shower can be installed indoors or outside. The unit may be connected to plumbing or use a portable self-contained tank. Regardless, emergency eyewash and shower equipment must be clear of any obstructions or tripping hazards.
Wall or floor signage should clearly indicate the safety shower or eyewash equipment’s location.
How Should I Maintain Emergency Eyewash and Shower Stations?
All safety shower and eyewash equipment should be checked regularly per ANSI and manufacturer guidelines. This includes the systems being readily accessible and clear from obstructions. As well as routinely activated, flushed and cleaned.
These inspections will make sure the equipment functions properly. For example, flushing fluids through pipes and nozzles ensures they remain clear of contaminants like scale or rust.
For portable equipment, water in the self-contained tank needs to be periodically replaced. As well as treated with the appropriate additives to ensure it remains sterile.
You can learn more in our previous post, How Often Should Safety Showers Be Checked?
Safety showers and emergency eyewash stations come in a variety of configurations. Including combination units. Their purpose is to protect workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances. By using flushing fluid to decontaminate a person’s skin, eyes or clothes.
The eyewash or shower equipment should be readily accessible in the event of an emergency. Therefore, it should placed near dangerous chemicals or potential hazard sites. However, eyewash and shower units must also be checked regularly to ensure they function correctly.
Both ANSI and OSHA provide guidelines for workplace safety showers. As such, your business must be aware of its health and safety responsibilities, including employee training.
If you need guidance on safety shower equipment for your facility, contact AbsorbentsOnline.com today!