It goes without saying that employers prepare for accident response with the firm hope that the counter-measures selected are never needed. But, in today’s industrial environment, that most worthy goal is sometimes not attainable. So, recognizing that accidents will occur, what should have been done to mitigate further injury? Several things need to be considered, including those things that are mandated by ANSI and OSHA, as well as considerations more specific to your precise situation and needs. Preplanning is critical and that is, obviously, where the safety professional comes in. Issues like the number and placement of emergency assets, while generically guided by safety standards, often come down to good old common sense and “guard-band” safety thinking.

But, what about the specific brand and model of emergency equipment used? The choices seem to increase each year, along with the potential for hazardous material spill and splash incidents. It’s reasonable to conclude that as products and industrial processes break new ground, so too do the risks associated with manufacturing. And, the safety equipment industry has continued to respond in-kind, with an endless series of “better mouse-traps.” So, how does one choose? Answer: With the greatest degree of pre-planning and information possible!

Emergency equipment is a product category in which you get what you pay for. So, you should first decide which features and capabilities are mandatory and make certain that your brand-to-brand comparisons compare “apples-to-apples”. Sometimes, obviously beneficial features are left out in the interest of cost-control.

Distinguishing features
Features that distinguish higher-value emergency showers include:
  • Colors and high-visibility pipe markers — In both OSHA and ANSI literature, the color green denotes “safety”. Specifically, its application is reserved for the “location of safety equipment, respirators, safety showers, etc.” Standardizing your operation to be consistent with this coding protocol assures compliance while minimizing risk.

    There are differences in how the pipe markers and signage that identify emergency equipment are handled by the various manufacturers. Some are more effective than others — and, cost can play a part in the final product configuration.
  • Integral flow controls — Quality combination shower eye/face wash systems should include an integral flow control mechanism. This feature assures that the flow to both the shower head and eye/face wash will remain consistent in the event that both are needed simultaneously. In the absence of an integral flow control, the flow pattern to either the shower or eye/face wash (or both) could diminish during simultaneous use. These decreased flows could easily fall below ANSI or other requirements. Flow controls, available as standard equipment, can increase the cost of your equipment slightly, but the benefits are obvious.
  • Combination hand or foot actuation — Some products provide for both hand (flag handle or pull-rod) and foot (additional foot treadle) actuation. This can be a critically important feature in many applications, where potential injury could limit single or primary actuator use.
  • Integral, visual air gap to separate supply and waste — Although only required by code in some areas, equipment that is designed with an integral visual air gap between supply and waste lines provides a high degree of peace-of-mind. Employees and others feel much more comfortable with visual evidence of separation of what can look like a shared or common input and waste line. Some equipment provides this important feature as part of the base product.
  • Flexible, total-system integration — In many installations, the total safety system is comprised of a number of showers or combination units and other appropriate associated equipment, such as tempering systems to maintain a consistent water temperature during use. It can, therefore, be very valuable to have shower products that are engineered with features that more easily allow for integration into a complete system. Features like a built-in re-circulation connection save costly, timeconsuming alterations during installation.
  • Pre-assembly and pre-testing — Some available products feature substantial preassembly and pre-testing at the factory, prior to shipment. While these features obviously only apply to the initial installation of the equipment, they should be significant considerations at purchase time. Preassembly provides the benefit of having experts, for whom emergency equipment is a core-competency, assemble critical components of your product for you. This also affords the manufacturer the opportunity to pressure test the assembly, assuring both integrity and operation. And, the pre-assembly function often saves up to 40 percent on the final installation labor.
In selecting the proper emergency equipment, one should also consider the anticipated life-cycle of the equipment. Like many products, the design, material selection and manufacturing of products that are intended to last longer generally drive a higher purchase price. Once again, you get what you pay for. While there is no industry-accepted standard for emergency equipment life-cycle, there are obvious differences between products that will play a principal role in longevity. Pay particular attention to the materials used and the thicknesses of component parts, such as receptors, handles and treadles.

And, finally, one should look for third-party certifications, including ANSI Z358.1. Independent certifications are your assurance that a third-party has measured a particular product against a standard set of baseline operating criteria.

Choosing the right combination emergency shower and eye/face wash is a matter of knowing your risks, requirements and budget, and then comparing those needs to the available products. When considered methodically, the choices become much clearer.