Emergency showers and eyewash stations are mandatory in workplaces where workers handle corrosive, hazardous or toxic materials. This article will present some basic concepts followed by information on the different types of emergency showers on the market and their installation, maintenance and the staff training that comes with them.
In North America, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z358.1-2014 norm contains best practices for Canadian employers to provide their employees with safe working conditions. However, it is estimated that 88% of emergency showers do not comply with this standard (1).
In Canada, there are sections of the law but no comprehensive standard that guides the proper selection, installation, use and maintenance of emergency equipment. In addition, each province acts independently with different regulations and requirements. Despite this, Canadian provinces refer to Z358.1-2014 and use it as a guide (2).
The purpose of this article is also to make employers and workers who use emergency equipment aware of the importance of the proper positioning and functioning of emergency showers and eyewash stations.
As a preliminary guide, a checklist has been added to the Annex to address the level of compliance of emergency equipment currently in place.
The first 10 to 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance are crucial. We must therefore act quickly. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, can cause serious and irreversible injury (2).
Emergency showers and eyewash stations provide on-site decontamination. They allow workers to flush dangerous substances that can cause injury with water while waiting for first aid (2).
For example, it is recommended to rinse during (2):
- 5 minutes in the case of a non-irritating or slightly irritating chemical.
- 15 to 20 minutes in the case of a product causing moderate to severe irritation and a chemical that can cause acute toxicity if absorbed through the skin.
- 30 minutes in the case of most corrosive products.
- 60 minutes in the case of a strong alkali (e.g., sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide).
ANSI Z358.1-2014 recommends the use of warm water with a temperature between 16°C and 38°C (60°F and 100°F). Using water above 38°C (100°F) is harmful to the face and can cause a chemical reaction with the skin and eyes. However, using water below 16°C (60°F) can cause hypothermia. In both cases, workers may not be able to rinse for the recommended duration (2).
To control the water temperature for emergency showers, it is necessary to use specialized mixer taps. It is also necessary to ensure, if this is the case, that a recirculation loop will allow the water to stay in motion. For emergency showers in a cold environment, it is necessary to protect the pipes with a thermal sheath or with a heating system.
When choosing an emergency shower, it is important to make an analysis of the risks that are related to the work areas and tasks that are performed by the workers (2). Here are some examples of commonly used emergency showers:
Emergency showers (deluge style): The entire body of the user must be submerged when the shower is activated. The shower must be designed so that it can be operated in less than 1 second and it must remain operational without the user having to keep his hand on the tap (or the lever, the handle, etc.) (2).
Eyewash stations and eye/face wash stations: The user should have enough space to hold the eyelids open with their fingers while ensuring that the eyes and face remain underwater. As with the emergency shower, this device must be designed in such a way that it can be operated in less than 1 second and remain operational without the user having to keep his hand on the tap (2).
Self-contained eyewash stations: These showers have the obligation to ensure a 15-minute rinsing period. The expiry date of the liquid must be permanently printed on the device (2).
Personal wash stations: The ANSI Standard states that a personal wash station may be considered an eyewash or eye/face wash station if it meets the performance requirements set out in Standard (2).
Combination units: Generally, this term refers to an emergency shower combined with an eyewash station. It is important that the pressure and flow requirements applicable to each part of the combination unit comply with the norm (2).
To have a compliant installation, emergency devices must be accessible without any hindrance. The standard recommends that the worker be able to access emergency equipment in 10 seconds (2). It should be considered that when someone goes to use the emergency showers, they will most likely be injured and panicked. The location of each emergency shower or eyewash station must be indicated by means of a prominent sign. It must include a pictogram that workers can understand, regardless of their language skills. The location must be well lit (2).
Work areas and operations that require emergency showers are as follows (2):
- Battery charging areas
- Spraying operations
- Very dusty areas
- Soaking operations
- Hazardous substances handling areas
Training is the best way to prevent a worst-case scenario. Workers need training on how to properly use emergency equipment, and they need to know the locations of the various emergency showers. During training, it is important to demonstrate the use of different emergency equipment through a practical exercise. Each emergency shower must have a nearby data sheet that explains the guidelines to be taken in the event of an accident (2).
In conclusion, it is important to ensure that emergency shower compliance is ensured weekly and annually. It is best to do these checks by an emergency shower inspection specialist. During this inspection, the specialist must carry out a check of the installations and he must measure the performance of these installations. Then, it must be able to provide an analysis report that summarizes the current conditions of the emergency equipment. This report must identify each piece of equipment, whether compliant or not, and it must present the necessary recommendations to eliminate any risk of accident. For a quick preliminary assessment, the checklist in the Annex will provide an overview of the level of compliance of emergency showers.
You can contact the Darspec team with any further questions about this topic.