The Safety Professionals’ Guide to Plumbed Emergency Fixture Placement, Compliance and Trends
By Ryan Pfund, Bradley Corp.

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Chemicals, gases and other hazardous materials – which pose potentially dangerous threats to life, limbs, eyes, skin and other body parts – are an inevitable safety issue facing numerous industries. Is your facility equipped with the right emergency fixtures – in the proper places – to provide employees the quickest and greatest relief from these contaminants?

Site evaluations pinpoint equipment needs

Building a facility’s emergency safety plan for using emergency showers and eye wash fixtures begins with a thorough job site evaluation to identify high-risk areas, potential hazards and emergency needs. In broad terms, site evaluations should determine key work site factors such as product location, water supply, water temperature, accessibility and equipment identification. It’s also essential to periodically review placement, installation, standards and requirements, as well as the latest product advancements relative to emergency fixtures. Some emergency equipment manufacturers offer free job site evaluations to help anticipate and assess potential work site problems so that all workers are protected.

During a walk-through, it’s important to reference the ANSI/ISEA Z358.1–2014 emergency equipment standard, which outlines specific requirements for emergency eyewash and drench shower equipment installation, testing, performance, maintenance, training and usage. In addition, Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) can help identify protection needs. An SDS provides workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with a given substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures

When establishing what type of protection is needed, a common question is, “Where do I start?” For facilities with a particulate risk it requires an activity-based evaluation. For example, if grinding, sanding or machining operations are occurring, plumbed or portable eyewash units are needed. If chemicals are being used in the facility, a worker could be splashed with a corrosive chemical or be exposed to a chemical vapor, and therefore need access to a drench shower to rinse their entire body.

Location, location, location   

Ensuring proper locations of emergency eyewashes and showers in a facility is of paramount importance to facility managers and workers. Each unit should be located close to a hazard, be easy to see and access, and work properly and immediately when needed.

The following are some common guidelines for proper placement of emergency fixtures:

Emergency shower fixtures must be within 55 feet of a potential hazard and must take no more than 10 seconds to reach.

In addition, the path to the fixture must not be obstructed by debris or other hazards that may impede the path of the injured employee.

The equipment must be on the same level the user is working on.  If there are doors between the hazard and the fixture, they must swing in the direction of travel.

If the worker’s ability to walk or move might be impacted by the chemical exposure, the fixture should be placed closer to the worker.

If highly corrosive chemicals are used, the drench shower or eyewash should be placed immediately adjacent to the hazard.

If a potential chemical spill in an area is likely to affect multiple workers, a sufficient number of fixtures should be in place to prevent one worker from having to wait 15 minutes while another is drenched.

Visibility is also a factor. The area around the fixture should be well lighted.

Each fixture should be identified with a highly visible sign – yellow can be easily spotted.

Make sure the area for flushing under drench showers is unobstructed. The only exception is the eyewash on a combination drench shower and eyewash fixture. In this case, the eyewash is placed in line with the drench shower to allow for simultaneous use.

Install eyewash sprayheads a minimum of 6 inches from walls or obstructions to allow the user clear access for eye flushing.

Finally, employees must be knowledgeable about the location of the fixtures and how to properly use them. While emergency equipment product efficacy is important, employee awareness and training completes the safety equation.

Types of fixtures

Once potential hazards are identified, the facility’s emergency eyewash and drench shower needs can be assessed. Equipment should be selected to address the level of potential exposure to workers and how many individuals could be affected.

Emergency eyewash stations

  • effective for spills, splashes, dust or debris likely to affect only the eyes
  • provides a controlled flow of water to both eyes simultaneously
  • delivers an uninterrupted, 15-minute supply of tepid water. Plumbed units can supply a greater volume of water available to the user-between 2.0 and 5.0 gallons (7.5 and 19.0 liters) per minute.

Emergency eye/face wash stations

  • used when the entire face is at risk from spills, splashes, dust and debris
  • irrigates the eyes and face simultaneously
  • provides a large distribution pattern of water (minimum 3.0 gpm/11.4 lpm) to effectively rinse the entire face

Drench showers

  • used when larger areas of the body is at risk
  • flushes a larger portion of the body but is not appropriate for the eyes (a combination eyewash and drench shower may be used to simultaneously flush the eyes and rinse larger areas of the body)

Heading off misuse of fixtures

The main culprits of emergency shower misuse is not providing ANSI-required tepid water and not performing weekly test activations to make sure the units are in proper working order.

ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014 requires the use of tepid flushing fluid for all types of emergency equipment applications. Tepid water is defined in the standard as a flushing fluid that is at a temperature conducive to encouraging an injured party to complete the full 15-minute flush during an emergency. ANSI suggests an incoming water temperature between 60° F and 100° F.

Maintaining tepid water is often left unheeded – largely due to time and cost. Some incorrectly expect that cold water will be sufficient for eye wash or drench shower fixtures, but the flushing fluid needs to be delivered at a comfortable lukewarm temperature that is not harmful to the user. If the water is too cold – or too hot – the user is much less likely to withstand the full 15-minute flush. A dependable delivery system of on-demand tepid water is a must for encouraging a full flush of hazardous chemicals and materials from the eyes and/or body. Both thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) and electric tankless water heaters can deliver tepid water reliably and efficiently.

TMVs

With TMVs, the hot and cold water is brought into the valve where it is mixed together and then routed over an internal thermal element called a thermostat. The thermostat continuously maintains the temperature of the mixed water flowing through the TMV. If the temperature differs from the valve’s set temperature, the thermostat will react and move a mechanism that modulates one or both of the inlet ports until the valve returns to the set temperature, thus ensuring that each emergency fixture is provided with tepid water. It is important to use TMVs designed specifically for supplying tepid water to emergency fixtures.

Electric Tankless Water Heaters

Newer tankless water heating systems are highly efficient solutions for providing an unlimited supply of tepid water for use in eyewash and drench shower systems. These models draw energy only when needed, reach the ANSI standards for tepid water temperatures in 20 to 30 seconds, hold outlet temperature to within ± 1° F, and have a low pressure drop (as low as 8 pounds per square inch). These features minimize potential post-installation complications that could be caused by a sudden decrease in pressure.

Some newer water heaters are designed with redundant safety and anti-scald features to meet ANSI tepid water requirements. They also provide overshoot purge protection that will automatically open to purge excess hot water whenever necessary.

Finally, it’s key to establish a weekly eyewash and shower inspection/test program throughout the facility to make sure all equipment is working smoothly and able to provide tepid water instantaneously. It is recommended to complete checklists for all equipment on a weekly basis to test all units and ensure optimal operation.

Manufacturers also provide specially designed materials to assist in weekly testing, such as a heavy-duty drench shower tester designed with a water-tight funnel to minimize getting wet during testing. The funnel directs water to a drain or bucket and prevents water splashing in the surrounding area. For testing eye wash fixtures, a transparent plastic compliance gauge features clear instructions on how to test the eye or eye/face wash system according to ANSI Z358.1-2014 testing protocols.

Newest emergency fixtures improve coverage, durability and efficiency

Recently, several improvements have been made to flow control, coverage and efficacy of eye/face washes and drench showers. The new emergency shower designs incorporate fluid dynamics technology and work in tandem with a pressure regulated flow control. This directs the flow of water to achieve a uniform and all-inclusive spray pattern that quickly washes contaminants from the user’s eyes, face or body.

In addition, new generation swing activated eye and eye/face wash units now incorporate ceramic disc technology, which is extremely durable and can withstand a lifetime of activations. With the ceramic valve, water is controlled between two rotating ceramic discs that fit closely together to create a watertight seal and provide a precise 20° swing activation and deactivation, which helps reduce splashing before and after use.

Safety: a work in progress

Upkeep, maintenance, testing and replacement are essential parts of ensuring short- and long-term facility safety. As businesses change and operations ebb and flow, work site hazards can change. The key to a strong safety plan is to regularly review and improve facility conditions, placement and performance of equipment and employee training procedures.

As printed in the August 2015 issue of Facility Safety Management Magazine

Author Bio: Ryan Pfund is Senior Product Manager, Emergency Fixtures, for Bradley Corporation of Menomonee Falls, Wis., a USGBC & ISEA member and manufacturer of locker room products, plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, partitions, emergency fixtures and tankless water heaters.