Understanding the standard
The ANSI standard concerning eyewash (Z358.1-2009) specifies that a “flushing fluid” should be used to flush out particles and contaminants. The fluid can be potable water, buffered water or saline solution, depending on the type of eyewash that is used.
The standard further specifies that it must provide a continuous, low-pressure stream for a minimum of 15 minutes. This time duration is important especially when chemicals are involved because the fluid doesn’t neutralize, it only dilutes. Plenty of fluid is needed to adequately dilute and flush away hazardous chemicals. If an eyewash station is going to service an area where extremely hazardous chemicals are going to be used, you might consider a longer flushing time and therefore more fluid.
Eyewash vs. Shower
Drench showers are not to be used in lieu of eyewash stations. Drench showers are high-pressure and are intended to flush the skin, not the eyes. There are combination eyewash/drench showers that can be used to handle both, but a shower should not be the primary eyewash station.
If you are installing a plumbed eyewash station, it is important that you follow the ANSI standard. The standard specifies that the nozzles should be 33-45″ off the ground and at least 6″ away from the wall or from any other obstruction. Furthermore, the eyewash needs to be able to be activated in 1 second and run for 15 minutes at least without the user having to keep his or her hand on the lever or valve. Plumbed units need to be tested on a weekly basis in order to make sure that there are no obstructions as well as to flush out the water that has been sitting in the pipes so that bacteria doesn’t build up.
Temperature – The fluid should be tepid which means that it should be between 16-38°C (60-100°F). In order to maintain that temperature, a mixing valve may be required.
Whichever eyewash you choose, it is important to make sure that you read all the information related to that particular eyewash station. It should tell you most of what you need to know in order to be compliant. If you are unsure about the type or need or location of eyewashes in your facility, call a safety professional. Many manufacturers or safety distributors will provide a rep who can do a walk-through and give you a detailed information about where you would need to install an eyewash station and which one would be best suited. Eyewash stations are a relatively simple and inexpensive investment that can pay off big when it saves someone their sight.