Selecting the right emergency eyewash station for your facility requires careful consideration of a few simple criteria:
  1. ANSI and OSHA requirements for emergency eyewash
  2. Eyewash station types (plumbed vs. portable)
  3. Flushing solution choices
  4. Maintenance associated with station type and flushing solution
  5. Overall cost of choice

Selecting the right eyewash station is quite simple if you know and understand all of the options available today.

Recap of ANSI requirements

ANSI requires that emergency eyewash stations:
  1. Are available in accessible locations within a 10-second walk of the hazard;
    • Placement of the eyewash station to the hazard must be located on the same level.
    • Injured must not walk up or down stairs, ladders or any other means to reach an emergency eyewash station.
  2. Deliver a 15-minute continuous flow;
    • The fluid must continually flush for the entire 15-minute duration.
  3. Be located in areas where caustic or hazardous substances are present. The most common areas that fall into this category include painting and solvents, battery charging, tool parts washers, laboratories, chemical storage, and chemical pumping and mixing.

    When in doubt, you should always check all relevant MSDS under the “First Aid” section to determine if the chemical or substance in your facility requires 15-minute eye flushing.
  4. Have an on-off valve, pull strap or door that is capable of activation in one second or less and activates with one single motion;
    • The injured must be able to start the flow of action immediately, preventing further damage to their eye.
    • The activation must occur in one step only.
  5. The location of the eyewash station must be free of obstructions that inhibit immediate use.
  6. The location must be in a visible area identified with a sign;
  7. Make sure that everyone working in the area can see the eyewash station, knows what it is and how to use it in an emergency.

Once you understand the hazards within your facility and the associated compliance requirements, the next step is understanding the choices available to you to best fit your needs.

Plumbed versus portable

Accessibility concerns regarding plant layout and changing work environments are often a significant factor in the choice of an eyewash station. New building construction often prefers plumbed eyewash stations to be part of their overall plumbing installation through contact with plumbing engineers, contractors and wholesalers. Also, there are scenarios where the nature of the hazardous material and the way it is handled mandates that a body shower is provided, making plumbed the more attractive option for flushing devices.

For many, the portability of self-contained eyewash stations is an easy alternative for keeping eyewash devices near workers as work locations and hazards change in the environment.

Cost & maintenance

Plumbed eyewash stationsrequire ANSI-mandated weekly activation to verify proper operation and to flush away any build-up that formed as a result of stagnant water. Without weekly activation, bacteria and mold can accumulate in the plumbing.

Mixed concentrate stationsare commonly known as Tank Style Portable stations. These units rely on mixing tap water with a preservative. The mixed solution typically expires after six months, so they require a bi-annual maintenance schedule. These units must be cleaned and refilled in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Cartridge-based eyewash stationsuse factory-sealed fluid cartridges and do not require the use of tap water. Some units have a 24-month shelf-life if the unit is not activated. Cartridges can be quickly and easily installed in less than five minutes on most leading models. There is virtually no maintenance until the unit is activated.

Your best option?

Medical experts agree that tap water has the potential to increase damage to an injured eye, particularly in areas that do not offer a bacteria-free water supply. Both plumbed stations and mixed concentrate stations require the use of tap water. Mixed concentrate stations do utilize a water preservative as part of the mixing. While the ingredients in this preservative will help reduce the likelihood of bacterial growth, none prevent build-up over an extended period of time.

Sealed-fluid cartridges, which require no mixing and measuring, are made in cleanroom environments and use purified water. Plus, some sealed cartridges on the market today are buffered, meaning that they are balanced to match the ph salinity of human tears, further adding to comfort and reduction of irritation for the 15-minute flushing duration.

Your primary requirement is to maintain compliance that requires adherence to regulations established in the ANSI Z358.1-2004 standard. This includes regulations for both plumbed and self-contained eyewash stations. For detailed information on this topic, visit

Keys to remember:
  • Eyewash stations must be within a 10-second walk of the hazard.
  • A station must offer hands-free operation in order to allow the user to hold both eyes open simultaneously.
  • The unit must provide continuous flushing with 0.4 gallons per minute for 15 minutes.