Specifying, installing and maintaining emergency fixtures

No one wants to be involved in a situation where a drench shower or eyewash is required. When accidents do happen, it is important to have an emergency plan in place for these situations. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets guidelines for the operation and use of drench shower and eyewash products, along with their testing and maintenance.

By Rebecca Geissler, Bradley Corporation May 1, 2006

No one wants to be involved in a situation where a drench shower or eyewash is required. When accidents do happen, it is important to have an emergency plan in place for these situations.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets guidelines for the operation and use of drench shower and eyewash products, along with their testing and maintenance. Specifying the right equipment is only useful if it is properly installed, tested and maintained. Here are a few tips for ensuring that your equipment and maintenance schedule is up to the ANSI standard.

Locations for emergency equipment

Airborne debris, chemicals and gases are just a few common eye and skin hazards found in plants. Even cleaning chemicals in a janitorial closet pose a threat to maintenance staff. Once you have identified potential hazards requiring eyewash or drench shower units, it is important to place these fixtures in the appropriate locations.

The ANSI Z358.1 emergency standard requires that emergency equipment be placed within a 10-second reach of any hazard. Distances should be shortened accordingly if the victim would be in pain, in a state of panic, visually impaired or unable to move quickly. For hazards involving a strong caustic or acid, the drench shower or eyewash should be placed immediately adjacent to the hazard.

To avoid delaying an exposed worker treatment, or perhaps causing further injury to a worker already in an impaired state, leave no obstructions between the user and the emergency fixture. The unit should also be placed in a well-lighted area and be easy to identify. It is important to choose a bright color that can be easily seen. A sign must also be clearly posted near the unit. Consult a safety or heath advisor when locating fixtures to ensure that workers are protected.

Drench showers or eyewashes?

Perhaps the most important aspect of selecting emergency equipment is to match fixtures that are appropriate for the type of hazard. Many different resources can provide input on potential risks, including internal personnel, chemical manufacturers, plant engineers and medical personnel. Ultimately, it is the facility owner’s responsibility to have a safety plan in place.

It is important to select products that comply with the ANSI Z358.1-2004 standard and install and maintain them appropriately. All products used should also be third-party certified. Along with the ANSI requirements, OSHA requires suitable drenching facilities when a hazard is present. An eyewash or eye/face wash unit is usually appropriate if the concern is limited to the eyes or face.

If a larger part of the body is at risk for exposure or potential injury, a drench shower should be installed. However, because the flow of a drench shower is not designed to adequately flush the eyes, a drench shower cannot replace an eyewash. If a risk to the eyes exists, a combination fixture or separate eyewash or eye/face wash should be installed.

Installation considerations

The importance of having the necessary tools and parts on hand before starting an installation cannot be overstated. Read through installation instructions provided by the manufacturer for a complete list of supplies required. If the product is ANSI certified, the manufacturer will usually provide mounting heights for the eyewash or drench shower to ensure that the fixture is compliant. Consult with the manufacturer or the ANSI standard before making any adjustments.

When installing a plumbed drench shower or eyewash, consider both the incoming water supply and the wastewater the unit will produce. The incoming water supply standard is a minimum of 30 pounds per square inch (PSI). The size of the incoming supply pipe should be indicated in the manufacturer’s installation instructions. If incoming pipes are downsized, an adequate volume of water may not be provided to the product, especially if water pressure is low.

Drench showers should provide a minimum flow of 20 gallons per minute and eyewashes a minimum of 0.4 GPM. Most plumbed eyewashes require a flow rate closer to 3 to 4 GPM for a suitable eyewash pattern, as required by the ANSI Z358.1 standard.

Supplying tepid water

In addition to having an adequate water supply at an appropriate pressure, the unit must also be supplied with tempered water. Consult a safety advisor to determine the correct water temperature for specific drench showers or eyewashes. Depending on application, ANSI suggests that incoming water temperature be between 60 and 100 degrees F. Water that is too hot may accelerate a chemical reaction with the skin. Temperatures that are too cold may cause the user to stop use before a full 15-minute flush. However, in an emergency, it is better to be drenched with cold water than no water at all.

If shut-off valves are installed for maintaining the eyewash or drench shower, provisions should be made to avoid unauthorized water shut-off to the system.

Flushing down the drain

Providing adequate drainage for a drench shower or eyewash is a must. Showers in particular can produce a large volume of wastewater over a 15-minute flushing period. If the drench shower or eyewash is activated and a drain is not present, water collecting around the unit may contaminate other work areas, cause slipping for users or respondents and can also result in costly water damage to the building.

Test units weekly

It is important that plant maintenance personal be instructed regarding emergency testing requirements and maintenance. A copy of the installation instructions should also be kept on file for future use. The ANSI Z358.1 standard requires both weekly and annual testing.

Plumbed emergency fixtures must be tested weekly to verify operation and optimal flushing. Beyond making sure the shower or eyewash is functional, a key function of testing is to remove any sediment that may have built up in the system and to flush pipes with clean water.

These plumbing systems are designed for frequent use. Moving water through the system keeps seals and drains from drying out, and regular activation ensures valves are easy to operate. If a drain is left sitting for an extended time without use, sewer gas can work its way out of the drain.

Self-contained units should also be inspected weekly but do not require activation. These products contain a limited amount of water, and weekly activation could leave them without sufficient water to provide a full 15-minute flush. Instead, self-contained eyewashes and drench showers should be visually inspected and flushing fluid should be changed or topped off as needed.

In addition to weekly testing, all products should undergo a full annual inspection to comply with the ANSI Z358.1 standard. Incoming water pressure should be checked, along with the flow rates of the eyewashes and drench showers to verify that minimums are met. The spray pattern of eyewashes and eye/face washes should be monitored using a test gauge that can be obtained from the equipment manufacturer.

Also, re-evaluate the location, selection and condition of emergency fixtures as part of an annual maintenance schedule. Here’s a short evaluation checklist:

Are hazards in the same location as when the emergency plan was designed?

Have processes changed that would increase risk to an employee?

Are additional eyewashes and drench showers needed to comply with the 10-second rule?

Has everyone in the facility been trained on the location of emergency fixtures, the proper use of these products and the plan for calling in additional medical assistance?

Is the path to the emergency eyewash or drench shower clear?

Proper installation of the emergency fixtures should be checked, and the products themselves should be routinely checked for any leaks or corrosion. Verify that water to the unit is within the tepid range and appropriate for any chemicals being used.

Perhaps the most critical part of any safety plan is to be sure that all employees and maintenance personnel are trained on the location and use of emergency fixtures on an ongoing basis. Having a successful safety plan means not only having the right equipment, but being prepared for the worst.

The Bottom Line…

ANSI standards govern the operation and use of drench shower and eyewash stations, as well as their testing and maintenance.

It is important to match fixtures to the appropriate hazard to ensure safe and effective use.

Providing proper installation and the proper temperature and water flow rates are important considerations.

Employees must be trained, and equipment tested weekly, to ensure personnel and fixtures are effective and available when needed.

Rebecca Geissler is a Product Manager for Emergency Fixtures at Bradley Corporation, a leading manufacturer of plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, partitions, emergency fixtures and solid plastic lockers. She can be reached at Bradley Corp., W142 N9101 Fountain Blvd., Menomonee Falls, WI, 53052-0309. For more information, call (800) BRADLEY or visit

MRO spending: plan for the unplanned

Unplanned maintenance — it can be the bane of a plant engineer’s existence. It can lead to hours spent on the Internet, on the phone or both, searching for suppliers that not only can supply the part needed, but supply it in a timely manner. And this can be the least of the plant engineer’s concerns. Depending on how long this process takes, the costs in lost production can be enormous.

“A lot of times, the process costs associated with getting a product is a lot more than the cost of the product itself,” said Ken House, regional sales vice president of W.W. Grainger, Inc. “Studies show that, by the time an engineer recognizes a need and goes through all of the steps to acquire the part — from identifying a supplier to receiving the item and paying the invoice — it can easily cost as much or even more than five times the cost of the item.”

House defined an unplanned purchase as a product or repair part that a company does not know it needs until the need arises. “Companies consistently tell us that the purchasing situation that is most difficult for them to manage is the unplanned purchase. It’s consistently the situation that takes the most time, is the most frustrating and most challenging for them to have to respond to.”

And unplanned purchases affect the bottom line more than most might think. According to House, more than 40% of the dollars spent on maintenance requirements are directly related to unplanned needs. “Most companies don’t fully understand the impact that unplanned purchases have on the costs of their overall business,” House said.

Most unplanned purchases happen fewer than five times a year, according to House. “In the studies that we’ve conducted, we’ve learned that only 25—30% of a company’s unplanned needs are going to repeat from one year to the next. So it’s really not in a company’s best interest to stock those rarely needed items,” House said.

However, managing multiple suppliers for unplanned needs can be extremely costly and time-consuming as well, so it’s in the company’s best interest to manage as few as possible. “When a company does that, it can really leverage its buying volume and its buying power,” House said. “It’s impossible to maximize your unplanned purchasing power when you’re working with dozens and dozens of suppliers.”

“What companies are looking for is suppliers that can inventory their unplanned needs for them, suppliers that they can turn to for all of their unplanned needs,” said House. “What’s most important to companies when they’re trying to fulfill their unplanned needs is working with suppliers that have a broad selection of products available locally. These kinds of suppliers can get products to a customer’s facility very quickly, typically the same day or the next day.”

That translates to fewer headaches for the plant engineer and a better bottom line for the company. — Kevin Campbell