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Safety showers: The most important questions and answers

16 May 2024

Safety showers are a crucial component of any emergency response plan in industrial and laboratory settings. Very often these showers are also called drench showers or emergency showers. These emergency showers are designed to remove hazardous materials from the body in case of an accidental exposure. They are an essential safety measure to protect workers and minimize the risk of injury or harm in the workplace.

In this article we explain safety showers, answer the most frequently asked questions and deal with the criteria you need to consider for plumbed-in emergency showers. Last but not least, we give an overview on other emergency shower systems and provide links to further information.

 

The most important in a nutshell

  • A safety shower is a first aid device that provides immediate decontamination of the body of hazardous materials in the event of an accidental exposure
  • Safety showers must comply with International Standards, such as EN 15154-1, EN 15154-5 or ANSI Z358.1 to ensure proper performance and functionality
  • Safety showers should be placed near the hazard in an easily accessible location and tested regularly to ensure they are in good working condition and can deliver proper first aid
  • Safety showers should not be used when there is a risk of eye injury with hazardous chemicals or when a reliable supply of potable water is not available

 

Safety showers: what you should know

The Safety shower is a technical first aid device used in laboratories and manufacturing plants. They are used to provide first aid to persons in the event of accidents when persons come into contact with hazards like acid, alkalis, heat, flames and contamination. After using an emergency shower, the accident victim should have a medical examination.

 

What are Safety showers?

Safety showers are specialized showers that provide a high volume of water to rinse the full body in case of an accidental exposure to hazardous materials. They are typically installed near hazardous areas or areas where hazardous materials are used and stored.

 

How do Safety showers work?

Safety showers work by providing a continuous flow of water to remove hazardous materials from the body. The shower head is activated by pulling a lever or pressing a button, and the water flow should be sufficient to remove hazardous materials within 15 minutes.

 

When do I need to install safety showers?

Safety showers should be used in case of an accidental exposure to hazardous materials, such as chemicals, corrosives, or radioactive materials¹. Site risk assessment, safety datasheets and safety processes and standards will provide important information on the need for emergency showers. Workers should be trained on how to use emergency showers and the conditions under which they should be activated.

 

When shall I not install a safety shower?

Safety showers are not a suitable first aid device if there is a risk of the eyes coming into contact with hazardous material in addition to the body. The water jet of a shower is so strong that it can cause injuries to the eyes. If a reliable supply of drinking water in the required quantity and pressure cannot be ensured, a plumbed-in emergency shower is also not an appropriate solution.

Haws Safety Showers Laboratory

Where should safety showers be located?

Safety showers should be located in an easily accessible location, near hazardous areas or areas where hazardous materials are used and stored. They should also be located on a level surface, with a clear and unobstructed path to the shower. National standards may include further requirements for the location of this type of showers.

 

What types of safety showers are available?

The most common type of safety showers are free-standing showers. They are mainly used in the industrial area. In laboratories, training facilities, wall- or ceiling-mounted showers are mostly used. A special type of emergency showers are barrier-free, handicapped-accessible executions.

 

Which international standards apply to safety showers?

The European standards EN 15154-1 (for laboratories) and EN 15154-5 (for other sites than laboratories), provide guidelines for the design, performance, and testing of safety showers. The internationally recognized ANSI.Z358.1 standard defines performance and installation of emergency showers and eyewashes². In addition, national standards apply in some countries, which must also be considered in the respective case. These standards ensure that emergency showers provide proper decontamination and are in good working condition.

 

How much water must a safety shower deliver?

A safety shower must supply a large amount of water for at least 15 minutes. The specific amount depends on the respective standard. Safety showers in laboratories must supply at least 60 litres per minute according to EN 15154-1. EN 15154-5 defines three classes for showers with different volume flows between 30 and over 100 litres per minute. According to ANSI Z358.1, an emergency shower must deliver at least 75.7 litres (20 gallons) per minute.

Haws safety shower in a refinery

What temperature should the water of a safety shower have?

The temperature of the water delivered by emergency showers should be tepid, neither to warm nor too cold. If the water temperatures exceed 38 °C, the risk of scalding is increased, as well as the absorption of harmful chemicals through the skin. Prolonged contact with cold water below 16 °C increases the risk of thermal shock or even hypothermia. Too hot or too cold water may prevent injured persons from using the shower for the required 15 minutes needed for effective decontamination.

EN 15154-1 and EN 15154-5 recommend a water temperature between 15 °C and 37 °C. Water temperatures between 20 °C and 25 °C are defined as ideal. ANSI Z358.1 specifies a water temperature between 16 °C and 38 °C. As a sum-up, all these standards define very similar optimal temperature ranges for emergency shower water.

 

When should safety showers be heated?

Safety showers located in an environment where the temperature can drop below freezing should be heated. There is a risk that the water in the shower will freeze, making it impossible for the safety shower to function properly. It is also important to ensure that the valves and water supply lines are freeze-protected. However, a heated shower cannot substitute a system to supply tepid water.

 

How often do I need to check a safety shower?

It is essential to regularly inspect and maintain safety showers. However, the frequency of inspections may vary depending on the local regulations and standards³. For instance, the EN 15154-1 standard specifies that showers must be regularly checked and tested to ensure their proper functioning, and any defects or malfunctions must be promptly corrected. In addition, safety showers should also be checked after any significant event, such as a power outage, a maintenance work, or an accident, to make sure they are still in good working condition. Regular checks should also include testing the water temperature and flow rate, checking the water supply and drainage system, and verifying the proper functioning of any alarm and lighting systems.

 

What are the alternatives to safety showers?

In addition to safety showers, there are other emergency shower systems that can provide first aid in the workplace as eyewash units, combination showers, and overhead tank showers.

 

Eyewash units

Eyewash units are safety devices that are designed to flush out contaminants from the eyes in case of a chemical splash or other eye irritants. They are designed specifically for decontaminating the eyes and face. An eyewash unit typically consist of a eyewash head that spray a gentle stream of water over the eyes, washing away the irritant and helping to reduce the risk of eye damage. Eye wash units can be standalone units or integrated into combination showers that also provide body flushing capabilities.

 

Combination showers

Combination showers are units that combine both an eyewash unit and a safety shower in one unit. The purpose of combination showers is to provide a comprehensive solution for immediate emergency response in case of exposure to hazardous materials, allowing for both flushing simultaneously of the eyes and body.

 

Overhead Tank Showers

Overhead tank showers are safety showers that are designed with a tank installed above the showerhead. They are mainly used for remote locations or sites where a reliable water supply is not available. When activated, the water flows gravity-fed from the tank through the showerhead and provides a continuous stream of water. With a tank of 1600 l, an autonomous overhead tank shower delivers a compliant flush of 15 minutes. Very often, the water in the tank is chilled or heated, so that the water temperature does not exceed the defined temperature range.

 

Conclusion

Safety showers are an important component of emergency response plans in industrial and laboratory settings, providing immediate first aid in case of accidental exposure to hazardous materials. Compliance with international standards such as EN 15154-1, EN 15154-5, and ANSI Z358.1 is essential to ensure proper performance and functionality. Regular inspection, testing, and maintenance of safety showers is also necessary to ensure they are in good working condition. Other emergency systems such as eyewash stations, combination showers and overhead tank showers can provide additional emergency response options in the workplace.

 

Further information:

 

References:

1. Safetyfirst.blog: Safe Ways To Use A Safety Shower In An Emergency

2. Redasafe.com: How to Comply with OSHA and ANSI Requirements for Emergency Safety Showers

3. Absorbentsonline.com: How Often Should Safety Showers Be Checked?