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eyewash in a laboratory

Emergency Ready: Eyewashes & Safety Showers

Our recently released edition of Incidents, Accidents, and Near Misses in Laboratory Research, Volume 8 highlights the importance of properly functioning, and correctly placed, eyewashes and safety showers. In one story, easy access to a safety shower prevented a serious acid burn on a lab employee’s leg. In two others, eyewashes and safety showers were readily available for quick and effective responses to splashes of biological material. Another story shows what could have gone wrong because an eyewash station had frozen over, and an additional story conveys how an emergency response might have gone more smoothly had an eyewash been located in the procedure room where a splash to a researcher’s face occurred.

Clearly eyewashes and safety showers are critical in a laboratory setting as well as in other workplaces, but do you know where they need to be located, how much flow they’re required to have, what the water temperature needs to be, and how often they should be tested?

The requirements for eyewashes and safety showers are based on OSHA regulations, ANSI recommendations, and state and local requirements. In its standard on Medical Services and First Aid, OSHA specifies 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.”

The ANSI Emergency Eyewash and Shower Standard (ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014) provides more specific guidance. Although ANSI recommendations are not mandatory, they are often referenced by OSHA in interpretation letters related to the OSHA Standard. In addition, companies could be cited by OSHA for not complying with the ANSI standard under the General Duty Clause.

Per ANSI, travel time to any eyewash and safety shower unit should be under 10 seconds, which is generally recognized as less than 55 feet.  In addition, the units must be on the same level as the hazard, with no obstructions such as a door in the path of travel. 

The ANSI standard also states that safety showers should have a flow rate of 20 gallons per minute at 30 psi and produce a 20-inch diameter spray pattern at 60 inches above the floor.  The center of the spray pattern should be at least 16 inches from any door, wall, or other obstruction.  The shower head should be mounted between 82 and 96 inches from the floor, and the valve can be no higher than 69 inches. 

Per ANSI, eyewash stations should have a flow of 0.4 gallons per minute at 30 psi. The nozzles should be at least 6 inches from any obstruction and mounted between 33 and 45 inches from the floor.

Both eyewash stations and safety showers are required to have enough flow for at least 15 minutes of delivery. The water is also required to be tepid, between 60 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ANSI standard includes a requirement for weekly flushing of eyewash and shower units. However, unless required by local authorities, monthly flushing is typical. This activation ensures that nothing is blocking the flow of the water and reduces the likelihood of contamination from stagnant water.

Prior to an incident, it’s important that employees be trained on how to locate and use the eyewashes and safety showers at your workplace. Procedures for use can vary depending on the model of the units installed. This can be done as part of chemical hygiene, hazard communication, or general safety training.

Because state and local requirements may vary and can be more stringent than ANSI recommendations, they should be reviewed for your facility’s location.


For additional information on eyewash and safety shower requirements, please contact us and remember to check out our latest edition of Incidents, Accidents, and Near Misses in Laboratory Research, Volume 8 to read about actual incidents that demonstrate the critical role this equipment can have in an emergency response.

This blog was written by Beth Graham, Director of Quality, Research, and Training


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