Protecting eye/face wash equipment from contaminants

Question: The ANSI Z358.1-2009 standard states, “Outlets shall be protected from airborne contaminants.” How can I best comply with this while keeping the unit close to my employees?

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

In the eye/face wash equipment section 6.1.3, the ANSI standard states that “nozzles and flushing fluid units shall be protected from airborne contaminants.” This requirement is listed to help ensure other requisites are met, including flow height and velocity and the necessary 15-minute flushing-time obligation. Protecting eye/face wash nozzles and outlets from contaminants may seem like a challenging feat given the amount of particulates floating in the air, as well as additional contaminants that eye/face washes could be exposed to in different environments. Fortunately, several options are available to guarantee the outlet is protected.

Some eye/face wash manufacturers provide “dust covers” – plastic or metal eye/face wash shields that are specifically built to fit the eye/face wash model and are easy to remove and replace. It also is important to note that you cannot use just anything to cover an eye/face wash. We frequently receive questions or comments from managers who say they use a plastic bag to cover eye/face washes. ANSI specifically states that “whatever means is used to afford such protection, its removal shall not require a separate motion by the operator when activating the unit.” A plastic bag acting as a cover for an eye/face wash not only is an inappropriate or inefficient contaminant guard, but it also acts as a barrier for a user and requires an additional step when trying to activate the unit, which is an ANSI violation. Most eye/face wash guards are automatically and immediately removed or lifted as the flag is pushed to activate the unit.

There are a few important factors to keep in mind when considering an eye/face wash shield: whether the piece fits securely to the shape of the unit and whether the guard is attached to the unit or can be removed and misplaced. If a guard is not the right fit for the unit, it can defeat the purpose of providing a cover. Loose covers may allow contaminants access to the unit and can affect the overall performance of the eye/face wash during an emergency. In addition, a guard that is attached to the unit eliminates any potential for misplacement and makes covering the unit easier.  

The guard is an integral piece for any eye/face wash. It protects the unit and will help guarantee the safety of the eye/face wash and its users.

Editor’s Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as National Safety Council endorsements.

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