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  • Michael Douglas10 reasons why your emergency shower and eyewash systems likely aren’t up to code

    88 per cent of emergency shower and eyewash systems aren’t compliant. Is yours?

    In contrast to many other safety categories, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has not created a standard that addresses emergency shower and eyewash station protocol. Instead, Canadian regulations for emergency washing equipment is set at the provincial level. While each province calls for different requirements (ask your local Levitt-Safety rep if you’re unsure about yours), the one standard that is almost unanimously agreed upon is ANSI Z358.1 – a guideline written by the American National Standards Institute. Last updated in 2014, this standard is regarded to hold the best practices that employers in Canada should follow in order to provide proper first aid response and precautionary measures for their employees.

    Want to learn more? Check out the recording of our All You Need to Know About ANSI Z358.1 Webinar.

    Emergency shower and eyewash systems play the largest and most important role in proper first aid protocols and can vastly reduce workplace injuries. A study by the University of Wisconsin reported that when an emergency rinsing station is used, deep-tissue burns from acids are reduced from 63 per cent to 12.5 per cent. The number of days in the hospital reduce from 20.5 to 7.5.

    If the importance of having a properly-working shower or eyewash station is obvious, why do so many fail to meet the ANSI standard?

    Maintaining a properly working emergency shower or eyewash station can take a significant amount of time and knowledge. Not to worry! Today I’m breaking down the top ten reasons why your emergency shower and eyewash systems may not be up to code and the solutions you can use to get them back up and running in no time.

    1. Insufficient Flow

    What does this mean?

    • The equipment’s water flow doesn’t provide 20 gallons per minute for a shower and 3 gallons per minute for eyewash, for 15 consecutive minutes.
    • This issue is commonly due to water pressure being too low or improperly-maintained equipment.

    Why should you care?

    • Insufficient water flow equates to inadequate safety.
    • Not enough water will be supplied to wash away contaminants from a person’s skin or eye tissues.

    How do you fix it?

    • Try cleaning the scale and calcium buildup from around the shower heads and flushing your waterlines lines to get rid of debris.
    • Check whether the size of your supply pipe is too small. ANSI calls for pipes to have diameter of at least 1.25”.
    • Install a booster pump to increase water pressure.
    • Install a large gravity-fed water tank.
    • Conduct weekly activation checks and annual inspections.

    2. Injurious Water Pressure

    What does this mean?

    • The water pressure is too high!
    • The pressure in the supply line is exceeding 90 psi (pounds per square inch). This will cause your emergency washing units to forcefully shoot water like a pressure washer.

    Why should you care?

    • Too high of a pressure rate will make it uncomfortable to withstand for the 15 or 20 minutes of flushing that is required.
    • It can severely damage an individuals’ eyes, which are sensitive to impact.

    How do you fix it?

    • Install a pressure-reducing valve.
    • Retrofitting your eyewash unit with a flow controller like the Haws Axion MSR will solve this issue.

    3. Flow Pattern Issues

    What does this mean?

    • The pattern of water coming out of the shower or eyewash heads is not consistent.
    • Showers should have a column of water 20 inches (50.8 cm) wide at 60 inches (152.4 cm) above the surface floor.
    • Eyewash stations flushing fluid flows should be 33 to 53 inches (83.8 cm – 134.6 cm) from the surface floor of user and a minimum of 6 inches (15.3 cm) from wall. They should also cover areas between the interior and exterior lines of a gauge at some point less than 8 inches (20.3 cm) above the eyewash nozzle.

    Why should you care?

    • Flow patterns ensure that that an individual who has been exposed to chemicals hazards can receive the effective stream and pressure of water needed for proper first aid treatment.

    How do you fix it?

    • Clean and descale the shower and eyewash heads.
    • If the flow rates are also an issue, increase the water pressure.
    • Again, changing the shower or eyewash heads over to the Haws Axion MSR will improve the flow and pattern of water.

    4. No Dust Covers

    What does this mean?

    • The required dust covers that fit over top the eyewash heads are missing.

    Why should you care?

    • Without dust covers, eyewash heads are exposed to dirt and other debris that can be pushed into someone’s eyes if the eyewash is used causing infections and serious injuries.

    How do you fix it?

    5. Lack of Signage

    What does this mean?

    • Your emergency showers and eyewash stations are not marked with the required signage – typically in green with white letters – to identify where they are.

    Why should you care?

    • In an industrial building it can be difficult to spot the showers among all the other piping and machinery. Proper signage ensures that your emergency wash systems can be found easily, especially in a panic.

    How do you fix it?

    • Put up new signage close to the showers/eyewash systems in a visible location. Make sure that they are positioned to be seen by everyone in the designated work area.

    6. Fails Simultaneous Use

    What does this mean?

    • Your emergency shower and eyewash systems are not positioned in a way in which they can be used simultaneously (i.e., the shower’s water pattern is not over top of the eyewash bowl);
    • Or, when they are used in tandem, either the shower or eyewash’s water flow is decreased as a result of simultaneous use.

    Why should you care?

    • Chemical contamination is extremely hazardous so it is important to be able to flush your eyes at the same time that you are washing the rest of your body. A standard shower alone cannot effectively wash and individuals’ eyes. It is important that these two units can work together at the same time in order to provide proper first aid.

    How do you fix it?

    • Clean the eyewash/shower heads.
    • Flush the supply lines and/or add a booster pump.
    • Retrofit dual head Haws Axion MSR single head technology with integral flow controls.

    7. Shower Flow Rate

    What does this mean?

    • Your shower does not deliver the required 20 gallons (75.7L) per minute, for 15 consecutive minutes.

    Why should you care?

    • Delivering insufficient water flow means that an exposed individual is not receiving enough water to wash the contaminants off which leads to a higher risk for lasting injuries.
    • Insufficient flow also means that the column of water is likely too narrow to cover an individual’s entire body, allowing for only a portion of the body to be washed at a time.

    How do you fix it?

    • Clean the shower head and flush the lines to remove scale and debris.
    • Install a booster pump.
    • Increase the supply line to the unit to a minimum of 1.25”.

    8. Water Temperature

    What does this mean?

    • The temperature of water delivered from your emergency wash unit is not tepid.
    • Commonly, water being used directly from its source can be too cold, carrying with seasonal temperatures. It can also be too hot.
    • According to ANSI, water must be above 60oF (16oC) and below 100oF (38oC). Be sure to check your provincial requirements as this may differ slightly.

    Why should you care?

    • Cold water is incredibly difficult to endure for 15 minutes; for this reason it’s likely that an affected individual will leave and therefore not perform proper first aid. In the case of chemical contamination, it is important to continue flushing the exposed area for the entire time to help restore the skin or eye pH levels back to a neutral range.

    How do you fix it?

    • Installing pipe insulation from hot equipment or cold exterior walls can help moderate temperatures.
    • If a hot water line exists, install a mixing valve to add in small amounts of hot water to even the temperature (or adjust the valve if one is already installed).

    9. Inadequate Testing Frequency

    What does this mean?

    • You are not activating your showers and eyewash stations at least once a week for inspection, in accordance to ANSI Z358.1.

    Why should you care?

    • Water that sits too long in pipes can acquire a buildup of bacteria and debris, causing the water that is coming out of the pipes to pose a risk of infection to the user.
    • Over time, valves can rust shut, pipes can freeze and scale/calcium can build up in the lines that affect the flow of water. For this reason it’s important to routinely check for degradation.

    How do you fix it?

    10. Inoperable Valves

    What does this mean?

    • The activation or mixing valves used to provide tepid water are not working properly.
    • If the activation valve is broken, the shower will not turn on.

    Why should you care?

    • It’s proven that emergency washing should occur within 10 seconds after contamination for best results. Being unable to access an emergency shower means that an exposed individual can lose valuable washing time looking for another unit.
    • Broken mixing valves means that the water will not be tepid, reducing the chances that an individual can (or will) wash themselves for the full recommended 15 minutes.

    How do you fix it?

    • Cleaning the valves of scale buildup can sometimes fix the issue but in some cases the valves may be too far gone. If that’s the case, purchase an upgrade kit or a new valve.

    Doing a complete replacement of your equipment can be costly and may not be necessary. Be sure to ask us about retrofit kits which can sometimes be used to update your emergency equipment and allow your site to become compliant for a fraction of the cost.

    Not sure where to start? Or, do you not have time to handle it all? At Levitt-Safety, we offer third-party reviews, free of charge. Let us conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the installation and condition of your emergency washing equipment. Included in this evaluation, you receive a detailed inspection report to address any deficiencies with your equipment and the recommendations you need to become compliant. Request yours today.

    I’ve just outlined the top 10 reasons an emergency shower or eyewash station may fail but you can also check out our easy-to-read guide Simplified Emergency Shower and Eyewash Compliance Guide to learn more about the ASNI Z358.1 standard.


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    ANSI compliance emergency eyewash emergency shower

    Michael Douglas | National Manager, Marketing Segments
    Levitt-Safety Limited Oakville