Emergency showers and eyewash stations - your questions answered

Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. Every year in the UK, thousands of people injure their eyes while at work. About 1 in 10 of these injuries will result in one or more days off work to recover, and between 10-20% of all workplace eye injuries will result in temporary or permanent loss of vision. 

Experts believe that with the right equipment this could have been avoided in 90% of cases. This is why it’s essential that emergency showers and eyewash stations are located on any premises where workers are dealing with hazardous substances.

Before you invest in this important equipment, please take a moment to read through our comprehensive FAQ on emergency showers and eyewash stations. We answer the top 10 questions customers ask before making their purchase.



FAQ on emergency showers and eyewash stations

1  What is an emergency shower?

Emergency showers and eyewash stations are essential pieces of equipment for any workplace that uses chemicals and hazardous substances.

An emergency shower is designed to fully decontaminate the body, and should deliver water at a diameter of at least 50.8 cm (20 inches). This diameter ensures that water comes in contact with the whole body and not just the head. 

An eyewash station is designed to decontaminate the eye area, and should deliver fluid to both eyes simultaneously at a volume of at least 1.5 litres/minute (0.4 gallons/minute) for 15 minutes. 

The first 10 to 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance is a critical time. Delaying treatment by even a few seconds has been shown to cause serious injuries. With an on-site emergency shower or eyewash station, workers are able to immediately flush away hazardous substances that can cause injury - providing them with on-the-spot decontamination. 

Having these items installed has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of workplace injuries. 

 

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2  Are emergency showers required by law?

There are various legal requirements to consider when it comes to emergency showers and eyewash stations.

COSHH and emergency showers

In the UK, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) regulations govern the use of hazardous substances in the workplace. Under this legislation, employers are legally required to carry out a risk assessment before using any hazardous substance. 

Carrying out regular assessments reduces the possibility of accidents occurring, and something as simple as making sure equipment is working properly can go a long way to reducing workplace accidents.

"(1) Every employer shall ensure that the exposure of his employees to substances hazardous to health is either prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled."

"(2) So far as is reasonably practicable, the prevention, or adequate control of exposure of employees to a substance hazardous to health shall be secure
                                                                                                 

[Translate to en_GB:] Notduschen im Gefahrstofflager

HSE Approved Code of Practic(ACOPs)

Approved Codes of Practice are guidance with specific legal standing. They deal with a wide range of hazardous materials and working practices. Employers who haven't followed an ACOP and are prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law are likely to be found at fault by the courts.

"Chemical in the eye – Wash out the open eye continuously with clean, cool water for 10 – 15 minutes.

"Chemical burns – Avoid contaminating yourself with the chemical. Remove any contaminated clothing, which is not stuck to the skin. Flush with plenty of clean, cool water for 10-15 minutes."
                                                                                                                

[Translate to en_GB:] Notduschenpflicht im Labor

The ANSI Standard Z358.1-2009

The ANSI Standard Z358.1-2009 establishes universal minimum performance and use requirements for emergency showers and eyewash stations. 

ANSI Z358.1-2014 specifies that the equipment installed be capable of providing flushing liquid for a minimum of 15 minutes. The flushing or rinsing time can be modified if the identity and properties of the chemical are known. For example:

  • 5 minutes for non-irritants and mild irritants
  • 15 - 20 minutes for moderate to severe irritants and chemicals that cause acute toxicity when absorbed through the skin
  • 30 minutes for most corrosives
  • 60 minutes for strong alkalis (e.g. sodium, potassium or calcium hydroxide)
[Translate to en_GB:] Notduschen in sonstigen Arbeitsstätten
It is recommended that it take no longer than 10 seconds (roughly 17m or 55ft) for an employee working alongside hazardous substances to reach an emergency shower.

 

 

3  Do risk assessments require emergency showers?

You should use a risk assessment to determine whether or not you need to install an emergency shower on your premises. You will need to assess whether there are hazardous substances on site that pose a risk to skin or eyes and will therefore require immediate rinsing in an emergency.

Important factors to consider when installing emergency showerseyewash stations and/or eyewash bottles are the number of units being installed, the design of the units and the positioning of the units.

Safety data sheets

If hazardous substances are used in your company, the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is one of the most important sources of information for risk assessment. A safety data sheet is not a risk assessment. You should use the information it contains to help make your own assessment.

[Translate to en_GB:] Abfüllen von Chemikalien
[Translate to en_GB:] Lagerarbeiten
[Translate to en_GB:] Sägen
[Translate to en_GB:] Schweißen

4  Can I use a regular water source instead of an emergency shower?

This is not recommended. 

In an emergency, the most important thing is immediate, efficient and sufficient rinsing with the right amount of water. Only specially designed safety showers can achieve the optimal and efficient supply of water, due to the high volume flow and corresponding flow speed. They are also equipped with many important additional functions that conventional washing options don't offer. For example, specially shaped eye attachments effectively support keeping the eyelids open to enable optimal rinsing of the eye area.

Emergency showers are also strictly standardised. The minimum requirements are regulated by EN 15154 - the European safety standard for emergency showers and eyewash stations - which is divided into five parts:

Part 1 for "Body showers with water connection for laboratories"
Part 2 for "Eye showers with water connection"
Part 3 for "Body showers without water connection"
Part 4 for "Eye showers without water connection"
Part 5 for "Body showers overhead with water for locations other than laboratories"

Good to know: DENIOS emergency showers meet all the requirements of EN 15154.  

[Translate to en_GB:] Augendusche mit Druckplatte

Tepid water

The ANSI Standard discusses the importance of tepid water, which is considered to be in the temperature range 16°C – 38°C (60°F – 100°F). Medical professionals recommend that tepid water be used to treat chemical injuries to eyes and body tissue because temperatures that exceed 38°C (100°F) can enhance chemical interaction with the eyes and skin. Additionally, flushing liquid temperatures below 16°C (60°F) can cause hypothermic shock. 

Tepid water can be delivered to emergency eyewash and showers in different ways, the most common is to install a thermostatic mixing valve or water tempering valve to blend hot and cold water and provide a temperature within the range defined. These valves should include a hot water shut-off to prevent accidental scalding, and a cold-water bypass to ensure the delivery of flushing liquids in the event that the hot water supply fails. 

5  Which emergency shower is the right one for you?

 

At the DENIOS online shop you will find a comprehensive selection of products designed to dispense rinsing fluid in the event of an emergency.

But which product is the right one for you? To make things easier for our customers, we’ve put together a handy product selection guide. 

 

View the guide

 

 

Need advice on the right equipment for your business? Call 01952 700 569 and talk to one of our DENIOS experts

 

 

 

6  What should I consider when installing an emergency shower?

In an emergency, every second counts when is comes to skin and eye injuries. For this reason, it's important to think about positioning when installing emergency showers.

Three important factors to consider:

Positioning
Positioning
Accessibility
Accessibility
Visibility
Visibility

Positioning 

As a general rule, workers must be able to get to an emergency shower within 10 seconds of exposure to hazardous substances. In the case of particularly hazardous substances, they may need to access them in even less time (depending on your risk assessment). There are certain chemicals that guidelines recommend require access to emergency rinsing facilities in 5 seconds. 

[Translate to en_GB:] Notdusche im Labor

Unobstructed access

Given the short amount a time you have between exposure to hazardous substances and needed to access emergency rinsing facilities - it's crucial that nothing blocks access to the emergency facilities. Floor markings are a good way of ensuring that access to emergency showers and eyewash stations remains unobstructed.

It's also important not to force people to climb stairs, ramps or open doors when attempting to access emergency showers and eyewash stations. Place emergency showers on the same level as the source of potential danger, avoiding all barriers such as doors and gates.

Visible at all times

It's essential that emergency showers are easily identified and visible at all times. To achieve this, clearly mark the area around the emergency shower with appropriate signage: "emergency shower" or "eyewash".

 

 

7  What do employees need to know about emergency showers?

Injured people quickly panic. Therefore, it's vital that workers are provided with information on the correct way to respond in the event of an emergency. Detailed instructions on the use of available emergency showers and eyewash stations must be a compulsory part of any employee training programme.

Our handy checklist tells you what questions your employees should be able to answer:

Checklist: The 3 questions your employees need to be able to answer Done?
When should I use an emergency shower?

Inform your employees about any possible dangers in the workplace and explain the necessary first aid measures. All employees needs to know under which situations an immediate rinse is required. The operating instructions for the emergency shower will form part of the risk assessment. 
Where are the company emergency showers located?

In an emergency, speed is essential. Employees must know exactly where the emergency showers and eye rinsing are located in the event of an emergency.

How do I operate the emergency shower?

Employees must know how to operate the emergency shower in the event of an emergency. Although emergency showers are designed to be as easy to use as possible, the trigger mechanism can vary on different models. Body showers are usually triggered by a drawbar. There are different options for eyewash stations, such as pressure plates or a valve lever. Eyewash bottles release the rinsing liquid by manually squeezing the bottle body.

Our tip: To ensure worker safety, extensive training on emergency equipment is vital. 

 

 

8  What happens to the wastewater?

Proper disposal of any contaminated water must be considered when installing new equipment. Drainage, freezing temperatures and pollutants should all be considered in advance. We recommend that you consult with your Local Authority, Water provider or Environment Agency for additional guidance on the correct wastewater disposal method for your site.

 

 

9  How often do I have to maintain an emergency shower?

For both emergency body showers and eyewash stations, best practice requires that they are annually checked by an expert. In addition to this, a functional check by the user should be carried out each month. For eyewash stations, a weekly check may be advised to keep the risk of contamination to an absolute minimum.

 

 

10  How do you test the function of an emergency shower?

A regular check of the emergency shower is needed to ensure it is operational in the event of an emergency. Regular actuation will also aid in keeping the valve working efficiently. Frequent water changes will also prevent contamination of the water pipe.

During the functional test, assess the volume flow, the water distribution of the shower head and the water quality. For optimal results and ease of use, we recommend using a emergency shower test unit


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