In December 2009, a well-known manufacturing plant experienced a safety incident in which an employee was severely burned. The employee was exposed to a caustic chemical that sprayed out of a spigot and came in contact with exposed parts of his neck, hands, and arms. He was rushed to the nearest safety shower and thrust under a deluge of bone-chillingly-cold 40°F water. Due to the extremely frigid water, his body’s natural reaction was to leap out before being completely rinsed of the harmful irritant. He was then transported to the medical office where the combination of not being fully cleaned of the chemical and the length of travel time lead to worse burns than there should have been.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z358.1-2009 is used to help plant managers and safety professionals comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations requiring employers to provide a safe workplace. This ANSI Standard establishes the universal minimum performance required for all eyewash and drench shower equipment used in plants. It states that all flushing equipment must be located in easy-to-reach areas, with the eyewash station or shower accessible within 10-seconds. This has become referred to as the 10 second rule. Additionally, eyewash stations and showers must be installed in well-lit and marked areas with a minimum flow rate of .4 GPM at 30PSI and 20 GPM at 30PSI respectively. The ANSI Standard also includes other design and operational specifications to assure that the safety showers and eyewashes are easy to use even in the case of an emergency by a victim with compromised mobility. Such features include valves that are easy to activate and will stay open once activated without having to hold a valve or handle open. OSHA regulations that apply to safety shower eyewash stations expand on the ANSI Standard requirements in certain high risk operations. For example, if open vessels containing hazardous substances are present, OSHA requires specialized safety shower and eyewash equipment to address the higher risks.