Specifying emergency showers and eyewashes is a challenging task. While many of us have done it for years, the challenge comes from increasingly stringent regulations and almost daily advancements in the state-of-the-art response products available. There is also the seemingly constant increase in the risks we face on the plant floor. It often seems every technological advancement or manufacturing process improvement brings a considerable amount of added risk.

Specification of emergency equipment comes down to addressing the things you have to respond to, such as mandated regulatory hurdles. But it should also address those things that you should do in nurturing the safest environment possible at the lowest cost, with the least amount of maintenance and downtime. That’s where the challenge comes in.

Let’s first look at the regulatory issues, per ANSI Z358.1-2004:

Facility Planning and Design — ANSI recommends facilities must be available to adequately treat the maximum number of potential casualties possible in a given situation, recognizing the hazards, the environment and the number of people who could potentially be exposed. Specific requirements:

  • A safety station should be accessible within 10 seconds of the hazard (Sec. 4.5.2).

  • Safety stations shall be on the same level as the hazard and the path of travel shall be free of obstructions (Sec. 4.5.2).

  • Emergency equipment shall be identified with a highly visible sign (Sec 4.5.3).

  • Emergency equipment must deliver tepid flushing fluid (Sec 4.5.6) and that flushing fluid must be within a specific temperature range (Appendix B6). That range is established as 60°F on the low side and below 100°F on the high side.

    Operations Management — Additionally, plant management is required to undertake several on-going steps to assure proper preparation. Steps include:

  • All employees subject to exposure to hazardous material must be instructed in the use of emergency equipment (Sec 4.6.4).

  • Emergency equipment shall be activated weekly to assure that flushing fluid is available at each station and to flush out the lines (Sec 4.6.2).

  • All shower units shall be inspected annually to assure conformance with ANSI Z358.1 (Sec 4.6.5).

    Product requirements

    And then there are requirements established for the emergency showers and combination showers and eyewashes. Often times, these requirements are met by newer equipment, while older installations pre-date the establishment of the specific requirement. In those circumstances, equipment should be updated. Product requirements for emergency showers include:

  • The showerhead must be 82 to 96 inches above the surface floor of the user (Sec 4.1.2).

  • The shower must deliver a minimum of 20 gallons per minute of flushing fluid and provide a column 20 inches wide at 60 inches above the surface floor of the user (Sec 4.1.4 and 4.1.5).

  • The actuation valve shall be designed so that the flushing fluid flow remains on without the use of the operator’s hands. The valve shall be simple to operate and go from “off” to “on” in one second or less (Sec 4.2).

  • Where drench hose facilities are added to basic shower assemblies, those hoses must deliver a controlled flow of flushing fluid at a velocity low enough to be non-injurious (Sec 8.2.1). Hoses are not to be used as a substitute for shower/eyewash stations.

    With respect to eyewashes and eye/face washes, the following requirements are established:

  • They must provide a means of controlled flow to both eyes simultaneously (Sec 5.1.1).

  • Eye/face wash equipment must deliver a minimum of 3 gallons per minute of flushing fluid for 15 minutes (Sec 6.1.6).

  • Eyewash-only equipment must deliver a minimum of .4 gallons per minute for 15 minutes (Sec 5.1.6).

  • Outlets shall be protected from airborne contaminants (Sec 5.1.3).

  • Eye/face wash outlets must be between 33 and 45 inches from the floor and 6 inches from the wall (Sec 5.4.4).

  • The actuation valve shall be designed so that the flushing fluid flow remains on without the use of the operator’s hands. The valve shall be simple to operate and go from “off” to “on” in one second or less (Sec 5.2).

    Combination units carry this additional requirement:

  • Combination unit components shall be capable of operating simultaneously and shall be positioned so that components may be used simultaneously by the same user (Sec 7.4.4).

    Upstream components

    Specifiers should also be aware that upstream components, such as tempered water mixing valves that do not flow the required maximum volume and pressure while in bypass mode could affect shower or eyewash performance by “starving” the equipment under those conditions. The ANSI requirement rates the shower, eyewash or combination unit at the outlet of the unit, regardless of upstream circumstances. So specifiers should consider the maximum flow capacity and pressure requirements when specifying upstream componentry.

    While not specifically established as requirements, certain product features and installation alternatives allow plant management to more easily comply with the above requirements and do so in the most cost-effective manner. They include:

    Flow controls — Flow controls minimize the impact of variations in input line pressure on the outlet pressures and flow patterns of emergency equipment. Flow controls are not required, but the effectiveness of your equipment and the likelihood of a victim continuing use of the equipment for the required 15 minute use cycle are greatly enhanced by them.

    Diffused flow eyewash and eye/face wash heads — Once again, while not a requirement, cushioned flow heads provide much greater comfort to the accident victim. That greater comfort translates into a greater likelihood of using the full 15-minute drench and/or irrigation protocol.

    Eyewash and Eye/face wash foot treadle — Providing a foot treadle to operate the eyewash or eye/face wash on a combination unit allows the user to operate both pieces of the equipment simultaneously and hands free.

    Stainless steel stems in ball valves — Actuation valves can take a beating, especially when the adrenaline is flowing in an accident victim. Specifiers should look for stainless steel stems in the ball valves used for actuating emergency equipment.

    Easy to grab pull handles — Once again, consider the optimal design of a pull handle from the perspective of the accident victim. It should be easy to see (read: substantial), sturdy and easy to use. Designs of pull handles have come a long way since the days when they were just a swinging chain.

    Pre-assembly and pre-testing — The best of intentions moves us to specify state-of-the-art emergency equipment. However, those intentions can be wasted if the equipment isn’t pre-assembled and 100 percent factory tested prior to shipment. The complexities of emergency equipment are best understood by manufacturers. They design and build the equipment, so they know it best. Specifiers should look for equipment that offers substantial pre-assembly at the factory, where it can (and should) be pre-tested prior to shipment. Pre-testing and pre-assembly of emergency response products enables the best, easiest and lowest cost installation.

    Floor drains and non-slip surfaces — Even though floor drains are not usually required by code, they are often a good idea. A 15-minute emergency equipment use cycle can generate a lot of water and it can get pretty messy and dangerous in the area surrounding the equipment without them. It’s always wise to plan for the maximum use of your emergency assets. At a minimum, non-slip surface coatings and/or non-slip mats should be employed.

    Enclosed Emergency Environments (E3) — There are now tailored, plug-and-play alternatives available that package all necessary elements of your emergency response mechanism into an easy to use booth application. E3s are often the best bet for comprehending all requirements and your specific operating circumstances.

    Become familiar with all of the subtleties of ANSI Z358.1 and the products that best meet the requirements, while also being the easiest to install without difficulties. Seek out products that provide the best designs and features, along with pre-assembly and 100 percent factory pre-testing. The result will be high compliance, low maintenance and no headaches.