How should I approach servicing and maintenance for emergency safety showers and eyewash stations?
When an accidental hazardous exposure occurs in the workplace, emergency eyewash stations or showers can (sometimes literally) be a lifesaver. But like any emergency equipment, they require proper care and maintenance to work effectively when needed.
The Importance of Maintenance
Let's start by briefly discussing why this maintenance is so necessary.
It mainly comes down to the quality of the fluid being released. In improperly maintained eyewash and shower stations, stagnant water acts as a prime breeding ground for organisms that can cause infections, including acanthamoeba, pseudomonas, and legionella (learn more about Legionella: The Killer in Your Tap). These organisms can then come in contact with the eyes or skin, or may be inhaled by workers using the shower or eyewash station. The result can be anything from eye, skin, and lung infections to Legionnaires’ disease.
How to Perform Maintenance Operations
So, what can you do to properly maintain and service your emergency eyewash and shower stations?
ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014 states that employers should conduct weekly activations of plumbed units to ensure that they are functioning properly. During these operations, you’re looking for the following things:
- To ensure there is flushing fluid supply at the head of the device
- To clear the supply line of any sediment buildup that could prevent fluid from flowing freely
- To minimize the buildup of organisms due to stagnant water
- To ensure the optimal overall functioning of the unit(s)
Essentially, you want to flush out all stagnant water. If your system has both hot and cold valves, be sure to service them both. You’re also looking to ensure that the water flows properly, and that the temperature is tepid – not too hot, and not too cold. The ANSI Z358.1 Standard Guideline is 60°F (16°C) to 100°F (38°C).
Checklists are a great way to ensure you’re conducting a thorough servicing of the unit(s) and the surrounding areas. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Is the emergency washing area free of any obstructions?
- Are the valves easily activated and does the valve stay on?
- Do the nozzles have protective covers? Are the covers removed when the valves are activated?
- Does the water flow consistently in a steady stream consistent with the ANSI guidelines?
- Is the water clear?
- Is the water temperature constant and tepid?
- Does the water drain properly to a designated containment area?
Maintaining these units doesn’t take a lot of effort, but the payoff can be huge if an emergency happens. This can also significantly extend the life of your equipment. Find a process that works for you, and ensure eyewash station and shower maintenance is a regular part of your hazard management program.
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