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Lab Safety Tip of the Week #5

What You Need to Know About Your Eyewash Fountain and Safety Shower

Required Reading for the Week:

When was the last time you tested your eye wash fountain and your lab safety shower?  Did you know that they are supposed to be flushed once a week according to ANSI standards?    I think it is safe to say that the plumbed emergency equipment in our science labs is often neglected.  We walk past the eyewash and the shower day after day after day, but rarely stop to inspect it.  Since I have never had to pull the handle (thankfully!) on either piece of equipment in an emergency, I rarely stop to think about the routine maintenance that is required.

But I am not the expert.  And while I hope this blog post puts a nagging reminder in your brain, use the links in this post to read what the experts have to say.  My go-to source of lab safety information is Flinn Scientific.  Read this article about the eyewash and safety shower.

Here are the basics about the lab eyewash fountain:

  • The eyewash must provide a flow of water to both eyes simultaneously.
  • The affected area must be irrigated for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Keep both eyes open and rotate eyeballs in all directions.
  • Regulation of volume and pressure is required to maintain a soft flow of water to the eyes.
  • Location of the eyewash is important.  Travel time from a work station to the eyewash should be within 10 seconds.
  • Water temperature should be "tepid" which means lukewarm.  Acceptable temperature range is 78 - 92 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Weekly testing should occur to verify flow.  This also clears the water line to remove dirt from the pipes.

Here are the basics about the lab safety shower:
  • The shower should provide a deluge large enough to encompass the whole body.
  • Remove contaminated clothing.  Every second counts. Don't be modest.  It will only slow you down.  Remove contaminated clothing!
  • The shower should deliver a pattern of water that is 20 inches across.
  • Water flow should be 20 gallons per minutes at a velocity low enough to not injure the user.
  • The plumbed safety equipment should be clearly marked with signs and by painting the walls and floor surrounding the equipment a bright color.
For us middle or high school teachers,  words cannot begin to describe how busy we are during the school day.  If your safety equipment does not meet the standards, it is time to have a talk with your school administrator.  The safety of your students depends on it!

And please don't forget to take the time to inspect the equipment.  No eye wash fountain should ever look like this!

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