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  • Writer's pictureNiall Kelly

Factors to consider when choosing a safety shower or eye/wash wash unit.

Emergency safety showers and eye/face wash units are the first line of defense in case of chemical splashes or spills, providing crucial protection for workers. When exposed to hazardous substances, it is essential for employees to promptly wash off the chemicals from their clothing and bodies. Any delay in decontamination can worsen the situation, potentially leading to severe injuries, long-term consequences, permanent disabilities, or even fatalities. Many companies face challenging environments, ranging from extreme deserts to arctic conditions, which impose demanding requirements on safety equipment. Even within Ireland, there is a range of different environments and work situations that present different challenges for Safety Managers and Facility Managers seeking to install safety showers and/or eye/face wash units on their sites.


Despite safety showers and eye/face wash units being used by a wide range of industries, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to choosing the right one for your worksite or facility. There are several factors that Safety Managers and Facility Managers should take into account when choosing emergency safety showers, regardless of the industry or location. We’ll now take a look at these.


Compliance with Recognised Standards for Safety Showers and Eye/Face Wash Units


Meeting the minimum requirements set by International and European standards is vital, as some sites may make it mandatory. The ANSI Z358.1-2014 standard is globally recognised as the most comprehensive guideline. It offers essential instructions regarding flow rate, operational duration, and water temperatures necessary for the safe and effective use of emergency safety showers and eye/face wash units. Four critical requirements for satisfactory operation are highlighted by the ANSI standard. There is also the European standard, EN15141.


The Safety Shower or Eye/Face Wash Water Flow needs to be adequate


Emergency safety showers must deliver a minimum of 76 liters per minute of potable water for up to 15 minutes, following a specific pattern. Similarly, eye/face wash units should provide 11.4 liters per minute for up to 15 minutes to ensure thorough decontamination.


Safety Showers and Eye/Face Wash units should be easy to operate


Regardless of a worksite, the safety shower, and eye/face wash equipment should be easily accessible and simple to operate, even if the user's vision is impaired. The shower and eye wash valve design should allow the flushing flow to remain on without requiring the operator's hands, enabling a quick transition from 'off' to 'on' in one second or less. Situations calling for the use of safety showers are time critical, so it is prudent to avoid a situation where valuable seconds are lost by a worker fumbling to turn on a shower or eye/face wash unit in an emergency.


Water Temperature needs to be tepid for Safety Showers and Eye/Face Wash Units


Safety showers should dispense tepid water, ideally between 16-38°C (60-100°F). Water temperatures above 38°C (100°F) pose the risk of scalding and increased absorption of harmful chemicals into the skin, while water below 16°C (60°F) increases the risk of thermal shock or hypothermia. Another reason is that if the temperature is excessively hot, or excessively cold, the user will be more inclined to leave the unit too early for full decontamination to occur.


Safety Showers and Eye/Face Wash Units should be strategically located


Emergency safety showers must be installed within a 10-second reach and on the same level as potential hazards in their given work site. Their positioning should be prominent, clearly visible, and free from obstructions. The availability of a sustainable water supply should also be brought into consideration.


To ensure compliance with ANSI and European standards, regular visual inspections and weekly activation of emergency equipment are mandatory along with an annual service to ensure their reliability and effectiveness. They should also be checked for legionella (we have an article about that here). A robust maintenance program is crucial to ensure that your safety showers and eye/face wash equipment can be depended upon should an emergency arises; it’s simply not something you can afford to be caught short on.


Does the safety shower or eye/face wash unit need to be fixed or mobile?


Another important factor to consider is whether you need the safety shower or eye/face wash unit to be fixed in place, or if mobility is required (the latter might apply in a situation where your staff are regularly moving their work location). In some situations, a portable safety shower unit may be practical (the emergency services use these, for example).


By prioritising safety and adhering to these guidelines, companies can enhance their preparedness to handle chemical incidents and effectively safeguard the well-being of their workers.


We hope that this article has helped give you an insight into the factors to consider when choosing a safety shower or eye/face wash unit. If you have any questions or specific requirements, please feel to get in touch. The Gaslines team has decades of experience in supplying, renting, and installing safety showers and eye/face wash equipment all over Ireland. Call us today on 0402 32116 (Arklow) or 021 484 1370 (Cork). You can also email us at sales@mahealy.ie

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