The Requirements of Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations

Most science teachers know that emergency showers and eyewash stations are needed in the presence of potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards. But which ones should they choose, and how should they be installed, operated, and maintained? The best place for answers is the American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment (ANSI/ISEA Z358.1).

Plumed vs. self-contained showers

Science labs and lecture rooms 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). That’s because laboratory accidents require a continuous flow of water for at least 15 minutes. Note: Some elementary science classrooms with limited use of hazardous chemicals might only require an eyewash station. To make sure, conduct a hazards analysis and risks assessment to determine if a shower might also be needed.

Shower specifications

The ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard suggests that:

• the shower must provide tepid flushing fluid (15.6–37.8°C or 60–100°F).
• the valve can be activated in one second or less.
• the shower heads should be positioned from 208 to 244 cm above the work surface.
• the spray pattern will have a minimum diameter of 50.8 cm at 152.4 cm above the work surface.
• flow rate should be equal to 75.7 liters/minute for a minimum of 15 minutes at 20.7 Newtons per square centimeter.
• the center of the spray pattern must be located at least 40.6 cm from any obstruction.


• showers must be located in the same room as the hazard, in a well-lit area with appropriate signage and within reach to hazards such as caustic acids.
• the pathway to the shower must be free from obstructions.
• provisions must be made to prevent an unauthorized shutoff, if shutoff valves are installed in the supply line.

Maintenance and training

• plumbed emergency showers must be flushed weekly to make sure they operate correctly.
• all employees must be trained to use the equipment prior to working with or near hazards.
• all showers must be inspected annually to make sure they meet ANSI Z358.1 performance requirements.
• showers must have tags with the date of the last inspection printed on them.

Eyewash specifications

The installation and 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:

• eyewash stations must provide tepid flushing fluid (15.6–37.8°C or 60–100°F)
• valves should activate in one second or less.
• the fluid should flow between 83.8 to 134.6 cm from the work surface.
• eyewash stations should be 15.2 cm from the wall or nearest obstruction.
• stations should deliver 1.5 liters per minute of tepid water for 15 minutes, at 20.7 Newtons per square centimeter.
• shower heads and flushing fluid units must be covered with plastic caps to protect them from airborne contaminants.
• the removal of any protective devices, including eye and face protection and protective clothing, must not require a separate motion by the user.

Drench hoses

For some schools, emergency shower and eyewash stations may be outside of their budget. These schools may opt for the drench hose system instead, as long as it meets the performance requirements in the ANSI Z358.1standard.

A drench hose is a supplemental device connected to a laboratory sink. Drench hoses flush the eyes, face, and body. The installation and maintenance and training are the same as those of emergency showers and eyewash stations.

In the end

Contractors who install these units, facility managers, and/or safety compliance officers have the responsibility to certify that the emergency eyewash and showers meet the ANSI Z358.1standard. The custodian is usually responsible for inspecting and activating the emergency shower, eyewash station, and drench hoses each week. The annual inspection, as recommended by the ANSI standard, should check for problems such as valve leakage, clogged openings and lines, and adequate fluid volume. A work record of these inspections should be kept.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at, or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

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6 Responses to The Requirements of Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations

  1. Alan Gagg says:

    It is worth noting that the ANSI Z358.1 codes allow for the use of a self-closing valve in schools (Appendix B – B3)

  2. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Alan Gagg –
    Alan – good point – thanks for the contribution!!!
    Dr. Ken

  3. Katie Smith says:

    Are there any specific regulations for the drainage of the safety shower? The setup in my chemistry classroom is the safety shower above the eye wash station in a cabinet coming from the wall and there is no drain for either one. They just pour out onto the floor. Thanks!

  4. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Katie Smith’s safety shower drainage question
    Katie – This is an often asked question. There are pros and cons to have safety shower and/or eyewash station drainage directly on lab floors or into the sanitiary sewer system. If directly on the floor there are potential slip/fall hazards, electrical hazards, hazardous chemical splash hazards and sewer gas exposure to name a few. If directly drained into the sanitary sewer plumbing system, there is potential contamination and kill of the bio contents (bacteria) in the water treatment plant tanks or septic tanks. Depending what state you are in would dictate if drains are required or not. I live in Connecticut and drains are not required. During inspections, I find some school science lab have them and others do not. It obviously is much cheaper initially without the drain system. Bottomline is hopefully the architect and builders looked into this. I would recommend you check with the local or state building departments to see if drains are allowed. Based on that information, you would know if in fact your engineering controls are within code. Hope this helps!
    Dr. Roy


    I read your post and i really like it,Thanks for sharing useful information.

  6. Thanks for pointing out that emergency showers must be located in the same room as the hazard, in a well-lit area with appropriate signage. I think that if you were on a construction site or something like that that you would need an emergency shower but that would change location a lot it would be smart to look into getting an emergency safety shower. I think that would help make sure that you could keep one close and could follow the regulations and could just bring it along with you instead of having to assemble a new one at every site.

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