Eye wash stations: The most important questions and answers

05 February 2024

Haws Eye wash station

The safety and wellbeing of employees should always be a top priority for any business or organization. In any workplace where hazardous materials or chemicals are used, the risk of eye injuries is significant. For this reason, plumbed-in eye wash stations are essential safety equipment that can provide immediate first aid in the event of an eye injury.

In this article, we will answer the most important questions about plumbed-in eyewash stations according to international standards as EN 15154-2 or ANSI Z358.1. We will explain what plumbed-in eyewash stations are, when they are required, how to choose them, and how to maintain and test them. Additionally, we will give an overview on other eyewash systems and provide links to further information.

 

The most important facts at a glance

 

Plumbed-in eye wash stations: what you should know

Plumbed-in eyewash stations are critical for providing immediate first aid in the event of an eye injury caused by hazardous materials or other harmful substances¹. They are commonly found in laboratories, medical facilities, storage locations, workshops, and production facilities. It is important to note that after using an emergency eyewash station, seeking medical attention is necessary to determine if any further treatment is required.

 

What are plumbed-in eye wash stations?

Emergency eyewash stations are designed to deliver a gentle flow of water to rinse the eyes, providing immediate first aid in the event of exposure to hazardous substances or materials that could cause eye damage. They are installed in fixed locations near hazardous areas and connected to a permanent source of potable water, such as the building’s plumbing system.

 

How do eyewash stations work?

Plumbed-in eyewash stations are designed to continuously provide a flow of clean water to flush out any hazardous substances that may have come into contact with the eyes. These devices can be activated by either a hand or foot control valve, directing a flow of water through one or more nozzles or spray heads. It is crucial that the water is delivered for a minimum of 15 minutes at a safe flow rate and pressure to ensure complete decontamination and prevent any further damage to the eyes.

 

What is the difference between eye washes and eye/face washes?

While both eyewashes and eye/face washes are emergency equipment designed to provide relief for those who have been exposed to hazardous materials, they differ in their intended purpose and scope. Eyewashes are intended to rinse only the eyes with a gentle flow of water, removing any contaminants that may have come into contact with them. Eye/face washes, on the other hand, are intended to provide a more comprehensive solution, flushing contaminants from the entire face, including the eyes, nose, and mouth. The ANSI Z358.1 standard differentiates between these two types, but the European standard EN 15154-2 does not. However, it is recommended to use an eye/face wash due to its higher flow rate, as it cannot be ruled out that in case of an accident, parts of the face may also need to be rinsed in addition to the eyes.

 

When do I need plumbed-in eye wash stations?

To ensure workplace safety, it’s mandatory to have emergency eyewash stations in areas where hazardous materials, chemicals, or other harmful substances are present. Determining whether a plumbed-in eye wash station or another safety system is adequate, depends on the nature of the hazards present. Conducting a site risk assessment and consulting safety datasheets, safety processes, and standards are crucial in making this determination. The GESTIS Substance Database is a useful resource for information on first aid measures and the recommended rinsing time for hazardous substances.

 

When do I need to install a plumbed-in eye wash station?

Eye wash units are not suitable for situations where there is a risk of injury to other parts of the body in addition to the eyes and face. In such cases, combination safety showers are recommended to rinse the body and eyes simultaneously. If a reliable source of potable water cannot be ensured, then a plumbed-in eyewash station may not be a feasible solution. Instead, portable eyewashes with a tank are a better option as they can provide a 15-minute flush of the eyes and face with clean water.

 

Where should plumbed-in eye wash stations be installed?

Eyewash stations should be strategically located in areas where there is a risk of eye exposure to hazardous substances or materials. This requires conducting a thorough hazard assessment to determine the appropriate placement of the stations in the workplace. Factors such as the layout of the facility, the type of hazardous substances used and stored, and the number of workers who may need access to the eyewash station should be considered.

As a general rule, it is recommended to place emergency eyewash stations in easily accessible areas, close to hazardous zones or areas where hazardous substances are handled or stored. They should also be located on a level surface, with a clear and unobstructed path to the eyewash. It is important to ensure that the eyewash station is clearly visible and identifiable, with highly visible signage to ensure that they can be easily located in an emergency. National standards may include additional requirements for the location of plumbed-in eyewashes.

 

What are the different types of plumbed-in eye wash stations?

Plumbed-in eyewash stations come in a variety of designs, each tailored to specific needs. Laboratory units are commonly installed on sinks or decks in laboratory settings. Wall-mounted eyewash stations are versatile and can be found in various industries. Pedestal-mounted eyewashes are ideal for workshops and production facilities. Additionally, there are barrier-free, handicapped-accessible, and recessed wall-mounted eyewashes available for specialized settings.

Barrier-free, wall-mounted eye wash station in a laboratory

What international standards apply to plumbed-in eyewash stations?

Guidelines for the design, installation, performance, and testing of plumbed-in eyewashes are provided by the European standards EN 15154-2. The internationally recognized ANSI.Z358.1 standard defines the performance and installation requirements for both eyewashes and eye/face washes². In addition, certain countries have their own national standards that must also be taken into account. These standards are essential in ensuring that eyewashes are capable of providing appropriate first aid and are operating in good working condition.

 

How much water does a plumbed-in eye wash station need per minute?

Eyewash standards require a flow rate of at least 6 liters per minute according to EN 15154-2. ANSI Z358.1 mandates a minimum flow rate of 1.5 liters/minute (0.4 gpm) for eye wash stations and 11.4 liters/minute(3 gpm) for eye/face wash stations². The minimum water flow duration is 15 minutes for both standards, and the water stream must have a low enough velocity to prevent eye injury.

 

What are the different types of shower heads?

Eye wash stations rinses from below the face and eyes of the victim leaning over the eyewash. Most eyewashes are equipped with a shower head with two outlet nozzles that spray from the outside to the inside. This system is called “bullhorn”. Some eye/face washes are even equipped with a bullhorn system that has four shower heads arranged crosswise. However, a common problem with all bullhorn systems is that the water jets are often unevenly strong, resulting in one eye receiving too much rinsing while the other does not receive enough. Alternatively, a unique type of shower head, the AXION® shower head, a patented technology of Haws Corporation, is centrally located and always rinses both eyes equally. Additionally, harmful substances are rinsed from the inside to the outside with this system, preventing them from entering the lacrimal glands and causing further injuries.

 

Eye wash station with AXION shower head flushing both eyes

How much space do eye washes require?

To comply with EN 15154-2 and ANSI Z358.1 standards, eyewash stations must allow sufficient space for an accident victim to hold both eyelids open with their hands while their eyes are in the water stream. EN 15154-2 specifies outlet nozzle installation at 1000 mm (± 200 m) above floor level, with a minimum 150 mm distance from the wall or nearest obstacle, while ANSI Z358.1 requires a flow pattern between 838 mm (33 in) and 1346 mm (53 in) high from the surface and a minimum 153 mm (6 in) distance from the nearest obstruction or wall. Additionally, both standards define the height and pattern of the water jet.

 

What should be the water temperature for eye wash stations?

The sensitivity of the eyes to temperature makes it crucial to ensure that the water temperature provided by the eyewash station is within a safe range, as water that is too hot or too cold may discourage injured persons from flushing their eyes for the recommended 15 minutes.

ANSI Z358.1 mandates a water temperature range of 16 °C to 38 °C for eyewashes, while EN 15154-2 suggests a range of 15 °C to 37 °C. However, additional regulations regarding water temperature may be present in national standards.

 

How often do I need to check an eye wash station?

Regular inspection and maintenance of emergency eyewash stations is crucial, and the frequency of inspections may vary depending on local regulations and standards. For example, the ANSI Z.358.1 standard specifies that eye washes and eye/face washes must be checked weekly to ensure proper functioning, while EN 15154-2 references the manufacturer’s corresponding test and maintenance instructions. Eyewash stations should be inspected after any significant event, such as a power outage, maintenance work, or an accident, to ensure they are still in good working condition.

 

What are the alternatives to plumbed-in emergency eye wash stations?

Apart from plumbed-in eyewashes and eye/facewashes, there are other response systems available that can provide immediate first aid in the event of an eye injury³:

 

Portable eyewashes

Portable eyewashes allow rinsing of the eyes for at least 15 minutes. They typically consist of a tank containing water or a rinsing liquid and are intended for use in mobile settings or locations without a reliable supply of clean drinking water. There are two main types of portable eyewashes: non-pressurized systems with a plastic tank that rely on gravity to release the flushing liquid and have a capacity of around 25 to 60 liters, and pressurized systems with stainless steel tanks that use overpressure to release the water or rinsing liquid.

 

Eyewash bottles

Eyewash bottles are not meant to replace plumbed-in eyewashes or eye/face washes, but eyewash bottles can be a vital first-aid tool to minimize damage to the eyes during the critical initial moments after an accident. They are a great addition to any workplace first aid kit, as they can provide immediate relief to an injured person until they can access a plumbed-in eyewash station.

They come in a variety of sizes, typically ranging from 500 to 1000 ml of flushing solution. It’s important to note that eyewash bottles have a limited capacity and can only provide a few minutes of flushing time, making it essential to have a permanent eyewash station available for prolonged flushing if required. Therefore, it is recommended to have both portable eyewash bottles and permanent eyewash stations installed in a workplace for optimal emergency preparedness.

 

Combination safety showers

Combination emergency showers are safety units that combine an eyewash station and a body safety shower in one unit. hey are used when there is a risk of exposure to hazardous substances for both the eyes and body. Combination safety showers provide an immediate and comprehensive emergency response solution in case of exposure to hazardous materials, allowing for both flushing simultaneously of the eyes and body.

 

Conclusion

Plumbed-in eyewash stations play a crucial role in emergency response plans in industrial and laboratory settings, providing immediate first aid in case of accidental exposure of eyes and face to hazardous materials. Compliance to international standards like EN 15154-2 and ANSI Z358.1 is vital to ensure proper performance and functionality. To ensure they can provide proper first aid during emergencies, regular inspection, testing, and maintenance of eyewash stations is necessary. Other safety systems like portable eyewash stations, eyewash bottles, and combination safety showers offer additional emergency response options in the workplace.

 

Further information:

Haws Eyewash Stations

Haws Portable Eyewash Stations

Haws Combination Showers

Haws Laboratory Safety Units

Haws Tepid Water Solutions

 

References

1. Benchmarkinc.com: Eye Wash Stations: What Are They & How to Use

2. Ccohs.ca: Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations

3. Creativesafetysupply.com: Why are emergency eye wash stations important?