Author Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 80, Issue 1 - September 2020
PublisherITEEA, Reston, VA
ReleasedAugust 20, 2020
Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 80, Issue 1 - September 2020

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SAFETY SPOTLIGHT: A Clearer View of Emergency Shower and Eyewash Station Requirements


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 29 CFR 1910.151(c) requires emergency showers and eyewash stations “where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.” Better professional safety practice suggests emergency showers and eyewash stations be included not only in areas with chemical hazards (paint thinner, turpentine, etc.), but also biological (yeast, plants, etc.) and physical hazards (wood dust, particulate, metal shavings, etc.). Given that these hazards are commonly found in technology and engineering (T&E) education labs, STEM labs, and makerspaces, both instructors and school administrators need to make sure they not only have these engineering controls available, but that they are appropriately installed, operated, and maintained. By reference, OSHA defers to the American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment (ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 - 2014). Since compliance with these safety standards is the duty of both instructors and school administrators, they must be aware of important components of these controls to ensure they are operating as designed. The specifications discussed in the following sections of this article should help keep both students and instructors safer in the teaching/learning environment.


Shower Specifications

The ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard states that:

1.     The shower must provide tepid flushing fluid (15.6–37.8°C or 60–100°F).

2.     The valve can be activated in one second or less.

3.     The shower heads should be positioned from 208 to 244 cm above the work surface.

4.     The spray pattern will have a minimum diameter of 50.8 cm at 152.4 cm above the work surface.

5.     Flow rate should be equal to 75.7 liters/minute for a minimum of 15 minutes at 20.7 Newtons per square centimeter.

6.     The center of the spray pattern must be located at least 40.6 cm from any obstruction.


7.     Showers must be located in the same room as the hazard, in a well-lit area with appropriate signage and within reach of hazards.

8.     The pathway to the shower must be free from obstructions.

9.     Provisions must be made to prevent an unauthorized shutoff, if shutoff valves are installed in the supply line. 

Plumed vs. Self-Contained Showers

10.   Whenever possible, labs should only use plumbed showers (which are connected to a continuous source of drinking water) instead of self-contained showers (which contain their own flushing fluid). The main reason for this is that a lab accident would require a continuous flow of water for at least 15 minutes.

Maintenance and Training

11.   Plumbed emergency showers are required to be flushed weekly to make sure they operate correctly. The standard has three minimum requirements for weekly inspections:

a.     Emergency equipment shall be activated weekly. (Each piece of equipment is required to be activated.)

b.     Activation shall ensure flow of water to the head(s) of the device. (This would be both the eyewash or eye/face wash head, as well as the showerhead.)

c.      Duration of the activation shall be sufficient to ensure all stagnant water is flushed from the unit itself and all sections of piping that do not form part of a constant circulation system, also known as “dead leg” portions. (The duration is determined by the length of piping where stagnant water could be sitting before it reaches the head(s) of the unit.)

12.   All employees must be trained to use the equipment prior to working with or near hazards.

13.   All showers must be inspected annually by certified technicians to make sure they meet ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 performance requirements.

14.   Showers must have tags identifying the date of the last inspection and the inspector’s name printed on them.


Eyewash Specifications

The installation, maintenance, and training requirements for eyewash stations are virtually the same as emergency showers. The specifications, however, are a bit different. The standard states that:

1.     Eyewash stations must provide tepid flushing fluid (15.6–37.8°C or 60–100°F).

2.     Valves should activate in one second or less.

3.     The fluid should flow between 83.8 to 134.6 cm from the work surface.

4.     Eyewash stations should be 15.2 cm from the wall or nearest obstruction.

5.     Stations should deliver 1.5 liters per minute of tepid water for 15 minutes, at 20.7 Newtons per square centimeter.

6.     Shower heads and flushing fluid units must be covered with plastic caps to protect them from airborne contaminants.


Drench Hoses

In some cases, due to budget restrictions, some schools opt for the drench-hose system instead of separate eyewash and emergency shower engineering controls. This is permitted as long as it meets the performance requirements in the ANSI Z358.1 standard. By definition, a drench hose is a device usually connected to a laboratory sink. This device is capable of flushing the eyes, face, and body. The installation, maintenance, and training requirements are the same as those of emergency showers and eyewash stations.  


Additional Information of Note

Accessibility and ADA Compliance

Travel to an emergency shower and eyewash station should be under 10 seconds (equivalent to about 55 feet) from all hazardous areas that require this safety equipment. In addition, the emergency shower and eyewash station should be in the same room as the hazard and have a clear path for travel. Any hazardous area beyond the 10-second access requires an additional emergency shower and eyewash station.


All emergency equipment must comply with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. These standards specify that:

1.     At least one out of five eyewash or shower stations in a specific lab area must meet ADA requirements.

2.     Signage for emergency equipment must be highly visible, even when not in use, so that it can be easily located by persons with disabilities.

3.     When a shower/eyewash station is a combination unit, the eyewash must be about 14 inches from the wall to the center-line of the eyewash.

4.     The activation handles for lowering the eyewash and turning on the shower should not require more than five pounds of force to operate.

5.     ADA-compliant safety showers must have the pull rod at or below 48 inches. This would accommodate any employee using a wheelchair. The center-line of the showerhead must be 37 inches from the wall.

6.     Emergency showers and eyewash stations mounted to a sink should be able to fold up and remain completely out of the way when not in use. For example, swing-down, sink-mounted eyewashes should be placed at the back or side of the lab sink so that the sink can be used for other operations; however, the spray should automatically start when the head is swung down into position over the sink drain.

7.     Sinks and counters should be 34 inches above the floor. This allows the spray outlets of the eyewash to be about 39 inches above the floor. Newer models can even be attached to swing down below the 36-inch sink height, making them easier to reach.


TETSept20SS2State Requirements Regarding Plumbed vs. Self-Contained

Some states require direct drainage for plumbed units, while this is optional in other states (e.g., placing a bucket under the unit to collect any drainage). Direct drainage is preferred, especially when flushing the units weekly.


Eyewash Stations, Showers, or Both?

Workspaces posing potential chemical, biological, or physical hazards to the eyes require eyewash stations. Additionally, those with potential spill, fire, or other hazards to body parts beyond the eyes require both emergency showers and eyewash stations.


Portable Eyewash Units

Instructional spaces used for laboratory activities (especially classrooms converted to makerspaces) must have appropriate eyewash stations and emergency showers if hazards are present that require their potential first aid use (see previous section on eyewash stations and showers). It is highly recommended that these sites have plumbed eyewash/shower stations in order to provide 15 minutes of continuous water flow as called for by the first aid procedures in some safety data sheets (SDSs). An alternative might involve eyewash and/or shower stations built into existing sink plumbing that provides tepid water. Most portable eyewash units (e.g., bottles) will not be able to provide 15 minutes of continuous water flow in the event of an accident.



Contractors installing these units, facility managers, and/or safety compliance officers have the responsibility to certify that the emergency showers and eyewash stations meet the ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard. Custodians can be tasked with inspecting, activating, and documenting the proper function of emergency showers and eyewash stations on a weekly basis. For potential hazards and appropriate first aid procedures, always check the SDSs before using any material. The annual emergency shower and eyewash station inspection should include checks for valve leakage, clogged openings and lines, and adequate fluid volume. A work record of these inspections must be kept on file. The documents cited in the additional resources section provide further details on emergency shower and eyewash station guidelines.


Additional Resources

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.151 – Medical services and first aid. Retrieved from

ANSI / ISEA Z358.1-2014 – Compliance Checklist. Retrieved from


Ken R. Roy, Ph.D., is the chief science safety compliance adviser for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and safety compliance officer for the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA). He also serves as Director of Environmental Health & Safety for the Glastonbury Public Schools (CT). Dr. Roy can be reached at Follow Dr. Roy on Twitter @drroysafersci.

Tyler S. Love, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Elementary/Middle Grades STEM Education at the Pennsylvania State University’s Capital Campus and possesses an OSHA 511 certificate in General Industry Standards. He can be reached at