The 4-1-1 on Flushing Out Compliance Issues with Eyewash Stations

In the presence of hazardous substances and corrosive materials, eyewash stations are critical to preventing injuries following accidental exposure. When harsh chemicals come into contact with a person’s eyes, serious and permanent injuries can be sustained within a matter of seconds.

We've compiled what you need to know on eyewash station inspections. 

To begin, let’s look at the three different types of emergency wash stations and their basic requirements [1]:

  • Standard Eyewash Stations 
        • In this type of station, the user should be able to fully open their eyelids using their hands with their eyes completely within the stream 
  • Eye/Face Wash Stations 
        • Much like for standard eyewash stations, the eyes and face should still be in the stream while the user is holding their eyes open 
  • Emergency Showers 
        • For these stations, the flow pattern of the eyewash fluid should ensure that it comes into contact with the user’s entire body

For any of these stations, there are two possibilities for plumbing [1]:

  • Plumbed Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations 
        • These stations are connected to the central plumbing of a building or facility during installation 
  • Portable, Self-Contained Eyewash Stations 
        • These stations have their own internal flow system that is separate from any central plumbing and can be installed and removed from an area as needed. As a result, they require extra maintenance to ensure that they are fully charged with fluid at all times.

Eyewash stations will also be equipped with eyewash bottles containing flushing fluid for the station. Note that eyewash bottles should only be used to supplement plumbed or self-contained stations, and never as a substitute or replacement. [1] 

This flushing fluid may be potable (drinkable) water, preserved buffered saline solution or any other medically acceptable solution under the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) standard. The standard does however, recommend the use of a preserved buffered saline solution over fresh/potable tap water, as the composition is closest to human tears and therefore reduces the risk of damage to the eyes. [2] 

As a property manager, you can protect workers and occupants by educating building staff on the ANSI requirements for eyewash stations, as summarized below (ANSI Z358.1-2014) [1][3]:
  • Eyewash stations should be inspected and reported on a weekly basis
  • Conduct a complete annual operational inspection and maintain according to manufacturer guidelines as recommended under the ANSI standard [4]
  • Each station must be located across a level and unobstructed path within 10 seconds or 55 ft distance from the hazard. For strong acids and other highly corrosive materials, eyewash stations should be directly adjacent to the storage and working area.
  • Acceptable overhead clearance should also be maintained to avoid additional hazards around the station (i.e. no cabinets immediately above the station) [4]
  • Stations must have clear, highly visible signage with the eyewash symbol and be situated in a well-lit environment
  • Eyewash stations must also be located near emergency exits where possible to improve access for emergency response personnel
  • Activate plumbed units during inspection to prevent issues such as sediment buildup and microbial contamination from stagnant water (note that the risk of contamination is reduced when the flushing fluid is a preserved buffered saline solution)
  • For portable, self-contained units, conduct a visual check to determine if flushing fluid needs to be replaced or topped-up
  • Check for valve leakage, clogged openings and lines, and adequate flow volume 
  • Spray heads should be shielded from airborne contaminants using protective covers that can be easily popped off during emergency use
  • Inspectors should also check to ensure that replacement parts are on hand in case there is an eyewash system failure. If this occurs, workers in the area should be immediately notified and protected The fluid flow from the station must reach both eyes simultaneously from no less than 8 inches between the spray heads and the user’s eyes
  • The station must deliver a minimum of 0.4 gallons per minute at 30 PSI for a minimum of 15 minutes [2] 
        • For face wash equipment to be used following splashes and spills where both the eyes and face are affected, note that the minimum is 3.0 gallons per minute at 30 PSI for 30 or more minutes [2] 
        • Also note that too much fluid pressure could damage the user’s eyes. For this reason, you should ensure the pressure at the station does not exceed 90 PSI [4]
  • Note that flushing time should vary for different categories of substances. This means that eyewash stations may be required to deliver the necessary flow pressure and fluid volume for longer periods of time if stronger chemicals are in use within a work area, for example 
        • 5 minutes for non-irritants or mild irritants 
        • 15-20 minutes for moderate to severe irritants and chemicals that cause acute toxicity if absorbed through the skin 
        • 20 minutes if the nature of the contaminant is unknown 
        • 30 minutes for a majority of corrosive substances 
        • 60 minutes for strong alkali substances such as sodium, potassium and calcium hydroxide 
  • To prevent pain/discomfort, burns and hypothermia during use, make sure the fluid from the station falls within a temperature range of 16 to 38°C [4][5] 
  • The fluid flow pattern from the station must be 33-53” from the floor, and at least 6 ft from the wall or the nearest obstruction
  • The hands-free stay open-valve should activate the spray heads within one second or less 
  • A drainage system should be provided for excess fluid in compliance with hazardous waste disposal regulations in order to account for contamination
  • The station must be safe from electrical equipment that can get wet and become a hazard
  • The station is required to be protected from freezing if installed outdoors or in a location such as a freezer or cold storage
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for hazardous materials and substances present in the work area should be consulted by workers and managers prior to use so that all staff are aware of the respective flushing times and emergency procedures for each chemical [6]

Aside from the direct threat that hazardous chemicals pose to workers and occupants in your building, your company could be subject to severe penalties in the event of an eyewash station compliance failure. In one instance of non-compliance, a marine terminal operator in Seattle was faced with a $108,000 USD penalty for failing to provide an approved eyewash station in areas where workers were transferring ethanol from rail cars and tanker trucks. [7]

To further help you with your eyewash station inspections, we’ve dug out some previous tips and tricks from the archive that are still useful today.

Last but not least, bear in mind that proper safety training for eyewash stations is mandatory for staff working with hazardous chemicals. Removal of contact lenses is required before using the station if applicable, and workers are recommended to be trained while blindfolded to simulate having to reach the station while their vision is impaired. [2] 

As a property manager, it’s your job to ensure all workers and inspectors have received instruction and hands-on testing on proper use and maintenance of eyewash equipment to prevent serious workplace injuries, in addition to using goggles, face shields and other PPE in the work area as required. [1] 

If you have questions or want to learn about how Tap Report can help streamline your eyewash station inspections, please contact us at