OSHA Regulations Regarding Safety Showers and Eyewash Stations

Our two safety showers and eyewash stations are in need of repair and/or replacement. What is required by OSHA?


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Q. I am an owner of a small plating shop with several small process lines that contain vats of corrosive materials such as cleaners, acids and process solutions. It has been brought to my attention that our two safety showers and eyewash stations are in need of repair and/or replacement. It is my desire to provide the appropriate equipment, but I could use some help on determining what is required by OSHA. K.S.

A. OSHA Regulation {29 CFR 1910.151(c)} states, “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.” Whether or not this criteria is met will be determined by the OSHA compliance officer. Some common compliance issues we have observed with safety shower/eyewash stations include:

Rusty high solids water when flushing; (safety shower/eyewash stations should be flushed at least monthly, if not more often, depending upon the work environment), • Safety showers/eyewash units in place, but not hooked up to the water supply,

  • Eyewash basin utilized as a trash recep- tacle,
  • Units not cleaned and kept free from debris,
  • Units blocked by equipment or miscel- laneous parts on the floor, andUnits not easily identified from a short distance away.

When it comes to defining the mechanical makeup of a properly installed system, OSHA refers to an industry recognized consensus standard ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Z358.1-2004. This consensus standard, just updated in 2004, specifies that a properly installed system must meet the following criteria:

  • Placed within 10 seconds of a hazard
  • Able to flush both eyes simultaneously
  • Eyewash nozzles must be protected from airborne contaminants,
  • Able to maintain a minimum flush- ing rate of 0.4 gpm (eyewash) and 20 gpm (shower) for 15 min
  • Use “stay open” valves to keep hands free to hold eyelids open,
  • Begin flushing within one second of activation
  • Identify location with a highly visible sign
  • Location is readily accessible and free of obstructions
  • Equipment properly maintained,
  • Employee training in use of equipment
  • Provide flushing waters of “tepid” tem- peratures.

In order to supply at least 20 gpm, we have found that a 1.5-inch water supply line is usually sufficient with typical water system pressures, however, you should verify this with your plumbing contractor. If you find that your water supply is insufficient to provide that needed flow and the cost of a larger and/or an additional water supply is prohibitive, consider a “bladder” tank to act as a pressurized water reservoir to supply your safety showers.

In previous versions of the ANSI standard, “tepid” water temperatures were not defined. The 2004 version specifies that “tepid” water temperatures are no lower than 60°F and no higher than 100°F. Cold water temperatures could lead to hypothermia, while hot water temperatures can damage sensitive areas of the body, such as eyes. Additionally, hot water temperatures can intensify a chemical splash injury associated with corrosive materials.

Maintaining proper water temperature may be an issue depending upon your plant’s geographical location, water supply (groundwater or surface water), and the location of the shower/eyewash station within the facility. If water tempering is needed at a particular location this can be accomplished by the use of a “mix” valve which mixes hot and cold water in order to produce “tepid” water; if this is not feasible, you can install “instant” water chillers and heaters, however, these can be very expensive, particularly the “instant” water heaters with their very large electrical service.