Office of Research

Appendix M

EMERGENCY DRENCH EQUIPMENT 

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration requires that where the eyes and body of any employee may be exposed to injurious materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use. A variety of emergency units are available for the purpose of quick drenching of the body of a person exposed to injurious materials. These include emergency showers, eye/face washes, eyewashes, combination shower and eyewash units, and hand-held drench hoses. Hand-held drench hoses may be used in conjunction with safety shower/eyewash units, but a drench hose is not a substitute for shower/eyewash units. Wall-mounted, squeeze-bottle type eyewash kits do not meet the requirements for eyewash units. They may be used in conjunction with approved eyewash units if the water/solution in them is changed weekly to avoid contamination (this must be documented and records kept); otherwise, those units should be removed from the laboratory and discarded.

The following guidelines may be used to determine if existing showers and/or eyewashes are

adequate or when installing new equipment:

  • Before purchasing any safety shower/eyewash unit, make sure the equipment meets the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) compliance standards.
  • For materials which may cause serious/severe injury to skin or eyes (this includes any material with a pH less than 2 or greater than 12), a standard eyewash/shower combination unit is required regardless of the quantity of the chemical being used.
  • When installing units where emergency drench equipment does not presently exist, stand alone eyewash/shower combination units should be installed.
  • These units may be activated by a ring, pull bar, chain, triangle, or treadle, but when possible they should always be uniform throughout the facility.
  • Valves should be designed so that they remain open until they are intentionally shut off and they should activate in one second or less.
  • Each emergency unit shall be identified with a highly visible sign. The area around the emergency unit shall be well-lighted and highly visible.
  • Emergency units must be readily accessible. A minimum of a 3ft. square area around the unit must be kept clear at all times. Marking off this area with brightly colored yellow tape is a good way to remind everyone to keep the area clear.
  • The unit should be located as close to the hazard as possible without physically causing a hazard itself. The time required to reach the shower/eyewash should be no more than 10 seconds, and they should be located no further than 25ft from the hazard site.
  • Eyewash nozzles shall be protected from airborne contaminants. Whatever means is used to afford such protection, its removal shall not require a separate motion by the operator when activating the unit.
  • The apparatus shall be located on the same level, and the path shall not be impeded by doors, equipment stock, or any tripping hazards.
  • All units must provide a copious flow of water for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Equipment shall be protected from freezing, deterioration, and physical damage through an inspection and maintenance program.
  • All safety shower and eyewash equipment must be inspected routinely. Safety showers should be inspected monthly. These inspections must include activating the unit for a period of time sufficient to ensure complete flushing of the lines (a minimum of 1-2 minutes or longer if necessary for water to run clear). Records must be kept indicating the date of inspection and initials or name of the inspector. Eyewash/facewash units must be inspected weekly to include activating for a period of time sufficient to ensure complete flushing of the lines (minimum of three minutes). These flushing requirements are necessary to ensure that infections caused by Acanthamoebae do not occur. These Amoebae are found routinely in eyewash stations when tested. These amoebae can cause serious eye infections, and clinical treatments with most antibiotics are ineffective against this amoeba. If this program has not been in place in the past, maintenance should be contacted prior to activating any shower that has not been flushed recently. The valves on these units may have corroded and may not shut off readily. You must also prepare for the collection of a large volume of water (20-50 gal.) in order to properly flush the lines.
  • All employees who might be exposed to chemical splash shall be instructed in the location and proper use of emergency shower and eyewash equipment before beginning work in the laboratory.

1.    For most chemical spills/splashes, a minimum 15 minute flush of all exposed areas (contaminated clothing and shoes should be removed while flushing). There are a few exceptions to this (i.e., HF—see Appendix F).  Employees must be aware of chemicals with specific first aid requirements by reading SDSs and other available literature for the chemicals that they will be handling. 

2.     When addressing the flushing of the eyes, instruction should be given to hold the eyelids open and roll the eyeballs so that water will flow on all surfaces of the eye and under the eyelid.

3.     Medical examination/treatment should be sought immediately after flushing.