Safety showers and eyewash stations are essential for OHS in workplaces with hazardous chemicals or debris, but to be fully effective and safety compliant they must meet certain requirements.
Safety showers can reduce the harmful effects of exposure by rinsing the skin of contaminants, providing emergency burn treatment and even allowing workers to shower at the end of the day.
Eyewash stations are used to irrigate eyes with water to flush them out, while eye and face wash stations rinse the face and flush the eyes at the same time.
A safety shower and eyewash or eye and face wash station can be installed separately or as a combination unit with a single source of water. A self-contained unit contains its own flushing fluid (usually water) and needs to be refilled or replaced after use.
Not having a safety shower or eyewash onsite, or having one installed incorrectly, magnifies the risk of exposure to dangerous substances for workers and can turn a small accident into a major incident.
When installing a safety shower and eyewash station on your worksite, consider the various features and requirements to make sure your unit is safety compliant.
What are the compliance requirements?
Safety showers and eyewash stations must comply with Australian Standard AS4775, published in 2007.
To comply with AS4775, the minimum flow rate for emergency showers is 75.5L/ min for at least 15 minutes. The same applies for showers in shower-eyewash combination units.
Plumbed and self-contained eyewash stations, and those in combination units, must flow at a minimum of 1.5L/ min for 15 minutes; plumbed or self contained eye and face wash stations at 11.4L/ min for 15 minutes.
The flow of any supplementary equipment, such as a hand-held drench hose, must be low enough to be non-injurious to the user.
According to AS4775, an onsite safety shower and eyewash station must also meet the following requirements:
- Tepid water – if your safety shower is outdoors and your pipe or water tank is likely to be in full sun during the day, a scald protection valve is recommended
- Valve fully closed to fully open in one second or less and remain open once activated without the use of the users' hands
- Actuators easy to locate and readily accessible
- Unobstructed travel path to the unit within 10 seconds or 15 metres, and on the same level as the hazard
- Eyewashes or combination units are located immediately adjacent to any strong acids or corrosives
- Nozzles on eyewashes are protected from airborne contaminants
- On eye and face washes, the flow of flushing fluid is provided to both eyes and face simultaneously
- The eyewash design allows for eyelids to be held open while eyes are in the flushing stream
- Area around the unit is illuminated and well signposted
- Equipment must be tested weekly) and inspected and tagged for compliance annually
Choosing separate or combined shower/ eyewash units
However, a combination unit can flush any part of the body or all of the body simultaneously, making it the most protective – and therefore recommended – device.
A combination unit can also be useful in situations in which a worker cannot follow directions because of intense pain or shock.
If your worksite has or is considering a combined shower/ eyewash unit, it’s essential that both elements of the unit can be actuated simultaneously, without resulting in a water pressure drop in either element, to ensure it complies with AS4775 and delivers the appropriate safety function.
What if we don’t have plumbing?
If your worksite has no plumbed water adjacent to your hazards, you can supply portable or mobile eye and body wash units. These are often referred to as a drench hose, as opposed to a deluge shower.
However, it is important to note that these do not meet AS4775 as the limited capacity only allows for a few minutes of flushing at the correct minimum flow. These units are designed to give you additional time to get workers to a plumbed and compliant safety shower and eyewash unit, rather than replace them entirely.
For more information about AS4775-compliant safety shower and eyewash features and requirements, or to discuss your requirements, contact Big Safety.