Certain OSHA standards require employers to provide suitable facilities for quick flushing of the eyes or body. However, many employers are unaware of, or at least have little understanding of, the requirements or recommendations for emergency eyewash and shower equipment.
This paper is intended to provide an overview of ANSI Z358.1-2004, American Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, the OSHA requirements, some manufacturer's instructions, and how they may differ. It will describe the need for quick flushing facilities in all ypes of industries, strategic placement of this equipment, correct installation to achieve optimum water flow delivered to the eyes or body, initial and frequent testing, regular maintenance, and training employees on the proper use of the equipment. Discussion will include examples of injuries and how proper use of quick flushing facilities could have prevented these injuries.
Some of the confusion or misunderstanding of emergency eyewash/shower requirements often stems from the differences amongst federal OSHA, state OSHA plans, and equipment suppliers. Federal OSHA has not adopted ANSI Z358.1 and therefore, can not enforce it; though they do refer employers to the most recent version of ANSI as a recognized source of guidance. However, there are several State OSHA Plans (e.g. MD, CA, WA, NC, etc.) which have adopted and/or provide their own interpretations of the ANSI standards. You may also find many suppliers who may unknowingly try to sell you personal eyewash units as meeting the emergency eyewash requirements, when in fact, they do not.
One area of confusion is in where emergency eyewash and shower equipment must be located. Many employers believe and some states enforce the placement of this equipment within 10 seconds or 100 feet of the point of hazardous exposure to injurious materials. While this may have been true in earlier versions of the ANSI, the latest ANSI Z358.1-2004 specifies placing this equipment no more than 10 seconds from the hazard, and its Appendix B states "the average person covers a distance of approximately 55 ft. in 10 seconds when walking at a normal pace." In North Carolina, the requirement is that the equipment must be reached in 10 seconds and within 75 feet from the hazard site (NCDOL OSH 8).
Another area that is not uniformly complied with is the frequency with which employers activate this equipment to flush the lines and verify its operation. ANSI Z358.1-2004 specifies weekly. Some states, for example California, only require a monthly activation of the equipment (Cal/OSHA). Then, of course, we also have self-contained units that must follow the manufacturer's instructions.