Eye Washing Station Details
Eye Washing Station Details

Eye Washing Station Details

Posted by Brian Walsh on in Fundamentals

Nearly one million workplace eye injuries are reported annually, so the importance of emergency eyewash stations cannot be overstated. The use of proper eye protection along with worker safety training can go along way in preventing potential serious eye injury.  The single most important requirement for eye safety is the emergency eyewash station. Emergency eyewash stations have been used in the workplace for over 60 years, but not until recently have the requirements for proper placement, usage, testing and performance for these stations been outlined.

OSHA has two different types of regulations, general and specific, that apply to eye wash station equipment designed to promote eye safety under certain work conditions. OSHA’s general regulation is applicable to all facilities that require the installation of eye wash station equipment as a form of first aid [29 CFR 1910.151 (c)] .  It states that: Where eyes of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes shall be provided within the work area for immediate use.

OSHA defines corrosive material as “A chemical that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact”. There are many types of chemicals that are considered to be corrosive, it is imperative to consult with experts and review the Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals being used.  The hazardous materials may be in the form of a liquid, solid or gas. Some examples of caustic chemicals include:

Very acidic (low pH)

  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Hydrofluoric acid
  • Nitric acid
  • Sulfuric acid (battery acid)

Highly alkaline (high pH)

  • Ammonia
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP, detergents)
  • Sodium hydroxide (lye, caustic soda)
  • Diethylaminoethanol (boiler treatment)
  • Ethanolamine (corrosion inhibitor, detergents)


  • Chlorine
  • Chlorine dioxide
  • Ethylene oxide (gas sterilant)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Epoxy resins
  • Formaldehyde

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) developed standards specifies the proper use, placement and performance of emergency eyewash equipment. The ANSI Z 358.1 standard was first established in 1981, followed by revisions in 1990, 1998, 2004 and 2009. ANSI Z 358.1 states that there are two types of eyewash stations acceptable they are:

  1. Plumbed Eye Wash Station:  An eye wash unit permanently connected to a source of potable water.
  2. Gravity-Fed Eye Wash Station:  An eye wash device that contains its own flushing fluid and must be refilled or replaced after use.  There are 2 types of Gravity- Fed Eyewash Stations: A tank styled eyewash station that is self-contained. These self-contained or stand-alone types of gravity-fed eyewash stations can use tap water mixed with a preserving agent to keep the flushing fluid free of bacteria. These stations need to be cleaned and refilled every 6 months and properly maintained. There is also gravity fed stations that use purified water and are filled in a clean room environment. The solution in these units must be replaced every 24 months.

The 2009 version of the ANSI standard was prepared by ANSI in cooperation with the International Safety Equipment Association it is Known as ANSI/ISEA Z 358.1-2009. This standard requires that the flushing temperature in an emergency eyewash station must be tepid and it defines tepid as a temperature range between 60 degrees F and 100 degrees F (16-38degrees C). Thermostatic mixing valves can be installed to deliver a constant tepid temperature for the eyewash. There are also turnkey eyewash assemblies available that provide a point of use water heater dedicated to a single eyewash station.

ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2009 also lists the following requirements for eyewash stations:

  • Eyewash only unit must be capable of delivering at least 0.4 gpm for 15 minutes.
  • Eye/face wash unit must be capable of delivering 3.0 gpm for 15 minutes.
  • The nozzles must be protected from airborne contaminants.
  • The height from the floor to the nozzles must be between 33 inches and 45 inches.
  • The distance from the wall (or an obstruction) to the nozzles must be a minimum of 6 inches.
  • The equipment must be constructed of materials that won’t corrode.
  • Once activated, the valve must remain open without requiring the use of operator’s hands.
  • The valve actuators must be easy to locate and readily accessible.
  • The valve must open in one second.
  • The equipment must be certified for proper assembly, installation, performance, and fluid flow pattern.  This may require using a flow meter, test gauge, etc.

The ANSI/ISEA Z 358.1-2009 Standard also lists the following for placement of emergency eyewash stations:

  • Locate equipment in an area that requires no more than 10 seconds to reach.  (Approximately 55 feet.)
  • For strong acids or caustics, place the equipment immediately adjacent to the hazard.
  • Place equipment on the same level as the hazard.
  • Ensure the path of travel is free of obstructions.
  • Identify the area with a visible sign.
  • Make sure the area is well lit.
  • Protect the equipment from freezing.

The following  are  ANSI maintenance requirements :All units must be inspected annually to make sure that they meet with ANSI requirements.

  • Insure flushing fluids are at the proper levels or need to be changed.
  • Plumbed units should be activated on a weekly basis to assure that proper flow is delivered

As well as clear any dust or debris from the unit.

  • Gravity fed self-contained stations must be maintained weekly or as required by the manufacturer.
  • If a tap water/preservative solution is used the station should be cleaned and the fluid replaced every 3-6 months.
  • If tap water is used alone it should be cleaned and replaced weekly.
  • Cartridges that are factory filled and sealed are required to have an expiration date on the unit.

The information given in this article is designed to help employers and employees understand the importance of the requirements for emergency eyewash equipment. The equipment is supplied in case of an event that requires immediate flushing of the eyes. Employers needing to install emergency eyewash stations should also consider installing an audible and visual alarm system that is activated upon use of the equipment. The alarm system will notify fellow employees as well as medical staff in the event of an incident.  In order to make sure the equipment is used properly, it is vital that proper training is given to not only the employees who maybe using the equipment, but also the maintenance crews that install and maintain the equipment.

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