Emergency eyewashes/showers

What is considered an “obstruction” in the path to an emergency shower (e.g., doors, stairs, curbs, etc.)?

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Responding is Casey Hayes, director of Haws Integrated, Haws Corp., Sparks, NV.

There are several different areas in the ANSI Z358.1 Standard that address accessibility of a user to a unit. In turn, there are multiple factors to consider when choosing an install location free of obstructions. The two sections of the standard that we will refer to state: “Shower must be within 10 seconds of hazard” and “Station must be on the same level as the hazard; obstruction free.” The ANSI Z358.1 Standard does not specifically define “obstruction,” but these two sections provide clarification of the definition’s intent.

Our definition of obstruction is not limited to obstacles or barriers (pipes, closed doors) – it also includes impediments or delays (stairs, curbs). An obstruction would be anything that impedes access to the shower by increasing the time to reach the unit or causing further injury. There are obvious obstructions that would clearly delay access to an emergency response shower unit in 10 seconds or less, but other hazards could cause not only a delay but also further injury. Stairs (because of the requirement to be on the same level as the hazard), piping, boxes, cabinets, trash, office furniture, etc., all would be considered an obstruction and should be cleared from the shower area.

Doors are specifically discussed in the standard’s appendix, which is not part of the standard but serves as a guide. The standard states that if a door is used, it must open in the direction toward the shower. Yet, a typical door that opens with a handle would not be accepted per the appendix. Ideally, a shower unit that is enclosed will have saloon-type doors that swing in and out for access and don’t require the added motion and added time of twisting a handle. If a door is needed for privacy or temperature control, it must open in the direction of the shower without any type of handle to open the door.

When selecting an install location, it’s important to take into account a real-life scenario of using an emergency shower. The only time a shower is used is in an urgent situation – when a quick response is required for maximum effectiveness. The victim will most likely be scared, possibly in pain, and anxious or panic-stricken to use an emergency shower for the first time, along with a host of other emotional and physical reactions. It is rare that the victim will be in a clear state of mind, which is why a clear path to the shower is crucial. Creating a predictable, reliable, stable environment will reduce any unnecessary emergency response problems or delays.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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