Laboratory Eyewash Information
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has established a voluntary standard covering emergency eye wash and shower equipment. This standard ANSI Z358.1 "Emergency Eye Wash and Shower Equipment" is intended to serve as a guideline for the proper design, performance, installation, use and maintenance of emergency equipment. ANSI Z358.1 was originally adopted in 1981 and been periodically revised. Some of the provision of the ANSI Z358.1-1998 standard regarding laboratory eyewashes include
- The valve actuator must be large enough to be easily located and operated by the user.
- The "hands-free" stay-open valve must activate in one second or less.
- The eyewash should be located within 10 seconds of the hazard and the path of the eyewash must be unobstructed.
- The eyewash should be identified with a highly visible sign and the area around the eyewash should be well-lighted.
- The eyewash unit must be capable of delivering 0.4 gallons (1.5 liters) of water per minute for 15 minutes.
- All employees who might be exposed to a chemical splash need to be trained in the use of the equipment.
- The water delivered by the eyewash should be tepid.
- The eyewash should be connected to an uninterruptible water supply with at least 30 PSI flow pressure.
- Plumbed emergency equipment shall be activated weekly to verify proper operation and should be inspected annually.
It is recommended that records be kept of all inspections and maintenance and that the equipment be inspected and maintained in accordance with ANSI Z358.1-1998 and the manufacturer's recommendations.
Faucet-mounted Emergency Eyewash Units
Many laboratories can use additional eyewash facilities. Eyewash provisions are required wherever corrosive materials or other chemicals "injurious to the eyes" are used (Source: ILHR 32).
If you are considering the installation of an eyewash unit consider the following advantages and disadvantages of the faucet-mounted models (available through most scientific supply and safety supply catalogs). These models are recommended in areas already served by a conventional eyewash installation, but where additional eyewash capabilities are desired.
- They are relatively inexpensive ($50-$70 to buy, $0-100 to install, depending on whether you need installation help) versus traditional plumbed-in eyewash installations.
- They are simple to use.
- They are easy to find (we are often surprised that people don't know where the nearest eyewash is located. However, most lab personnel have no trouble identifying the nearest faucet).
- You have the ability to temper the water (we have tried to "practice" washing our eyes out as recommended for 15 minutes in cold water. Our most machismo soldier-of-fortune type lasted the longest, 60 seconds.) When someone actually has something in their eye, they are probably more motivated to wash their eyes out longer, or they may be more sensitive to the extreme temperature. A training film available from our department (provided by the U.S. Geological Survey) shows how to assist someone washing their eyes out by helping them hold their head in the water flow to overcome the natural tendency to pull away from the cold water.
- You have the ability to flush the system. We recommend that all eyewash systems (fixed and portable) be flushed for three minutes each week to eliminate dangerous bacterial and amoebic growth. We have noted that many eyewashes do not get flushed routinely (NOTE: This is a LAB responsibility! While Facility Services provides routine quarterly to semi-annual testing of emergency showers and eyewashes it is up to each lab to flush their eyewashes for hygiene purposes.) Faucet-mounted eyewashes get flushed out every time someone uses the faucet. Also, they are easier to flush out, because a drain is usually present.
- Some faucets do not have enough water pressure to provide an adequate stream height out of a faucet mounted eyewash.
- Training of all faucet users is necessary. You don't want someone to frantically turn on the eyewash and start flushing their eyes after someone else has just used the faucet for hot water. We advise those with faucet eyewashes to flush hot water out with a little cold water after each use.
- Compatibility. Only a few faucet-mount eyewashes are available. Not all faucets will accept these mounts.
- Distance between eyewash spouts. For the least expensive faucet-mount models available, the two water spouts are too close together. Washing both eyes at the same time with these models is difficult, if not impossible.
Consider the above advantages and disadvantages in installing a faucet eyewash. Overall, review your laboratory operations and determine if additional eyewash protection is warranted. The faucet mounted eyewash will serve well, especially if there is a permanent, plumbed-in unit in the corridor that you can move to once the immediate need for washing a chemical out of your eye is satisfied.
If you would like further information or would care to discuss the use of faucet-mounted eyewashes, e-mail questions to Zack Steuerwald, Lab Safety Program Manager, at x5808.