Emergency Eye Wash Station: Key Criteria Before Buying

emergency eye wash station buy guide

Ensuring occupational safety in industrial facilities is non-negotiable, particularly when it comes to emergency response equipment. Among these, eye wash stations play a critical role in mitigating eye injuries from chemical spills or debris. This article dives deep into the considerations before purchasing an emergency eye wash unit, detailing the necessity, key features, types, and compliance requirements to help you make an informed decision.


Eyewash Station: 3 Major Buying Considerations To Know

When integrating safety measures into industrial facilities, understanding the specific needs and hazards of your environment is essential. Eye wash stations, a critical component of emergency response equipment, require careful selection to ensure they meet the demands of your workplace.

Hazard and Needs Assessments

person using emergency eyewash

One of the first steps critical in choosing an emergency eyewash station for an industrial facility revolves around identifying potential hazards in the workplace following the OSHA 1910.1200 on hazard communication. Understanding the specific hazards present in industrial facilities is essential for the proper placement, specification, and use of safety wash stations.

It is critical to understand that eye wash stations and other industrial safety shower equipment are not merely regulatory requirements but vital components of workplace safety protocols designed to address the immediate needs following eye, face, and body exposure incidents. Here’s an overview of the most common industrial hazards that necessitate emergency eye wash and shower stations.

  • Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure stands as one of the most prevalent risks in various industrial settings, including manufacturing plants, laboratories, and processing facilities. Chemicals, ranging from acids and alkalis to solvents and reagents, can cause severe eye and body injuries upon contact, including burns, corneal damage, and blindness.

  • Particulate Matter

Industries involved in cutting, grinding, or material processing often generate particulate matter that can injure the eyes. Metals, wood, and plastic particles can scratch the cornea or become embedded in the eye tissue, leading to infections or vision impairment in employees.

  • Biological Hazards

Biological laboratories, pharmaceutical plants, and healthcare facilities handle biological materials that pose infection risks. Exposure to infectious agents can result from splashes or aerosol generation during experimental procedures or patient care.

  • Thermal Hazards

Exposure to extreme heat or steam, common in foundries, power plants, and food processing facilities, can cause thermal burns to the eyes and surrounding skin. Such injuries not only result from direct contact but also from radiant heat and steam releases.

Hazard Type Industries/Setting Specific Risks Protective Measures
Chemical Exposure Manufacturing, Laboratories, Processing facilities Splashes, leaks, spillage of harmful chemicals Stations must be accessible within seconds, offering immediate flushing
Particulate Matter Woodworking, Metal fabrication, Mining Cutting, grinding generating particles Part of infection control, emphasizing swift decontamination
Biological Hazards Biological labs, Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare Handling infectious materials Soft yet effective water flow to remove particles without further injury
Thermal Hazards Foundries, Power plants, Food processing Exposure to heat and steam causing burns Delivery of tepid water to avoid thermal shock, and aid in burn relief


Eyewash vs Eye/Facewash

Another key consideration in purchasing is deciding between an eyewash or an eye/facewash station. Each type serves a specific purpose, designed to mitigate the risks associated with different industrial hazards.

  • Eyewash Station - Eyewash stations are specialized for rinsing the eyes, featuring user-friendly activation methods and nozzles at eye level for quick access. Their design focuses on immediate, targeted flushing, ideal for eye-specific contaminants. However, their use is limited to eye cleansing, potentially inadequate for full facial exposure.
  • Eye/Facewash Station - Eye/facewash stations provide comprehensive flushing for both eyes and face, suitable for a broader range of emergencies, including chemical and particulate contamination. They use more water and require larger space, which may be a concern for resource-limited settings. Despite being costlier, they offer greater versatility and coverage in hazardous environments.

Choosing between eyewash and eye/facewash stations hinges on the specific hazards present in the workplace and the nature of the potential exposures

Plumbed vs Portable Eyewash Station

Another critical decision is between portable and plumbed eye wash stations, each with its advantages and situational considerations.

  • Portable eye wash units are self-contained units that can be placed near the hazard area without the need for plumbing connections. They are ideal for remote or temporary work sites, or where plumbing is not feasible. Portable units need regular maintenance to ensure the water or flushing solution is clean and ready for use.
  • Plumbed eye wash units are connected to a permanent water supply, offering an unlimited supply of flushing fluid. They are best suited for fixed facilities with a consistent risk of eye injuries. These stations require less maintenance in terms of fluid replenishment but need regular testing to ensure they are in proper working order.

The choice between portable and plumbed eyewash stations depends on factors such as the facility’s layout, the nature of the work conducted, and the ability to perform regular maintenance and testing to ensure the station's readiness in an emergency.


Factors To Consider When Choosing An Emergency Eye Wash Station

eye wash station with sign

Selecting the right emergency eye wash station is a vital decision that requires careful consideration. Here are some of the key factors potential buyers need to consider before purchasing an eyewash station for their facility.

Eyewash Station Model Types and Styles

The design of an eyewash station can significantly affect its usability, accessibility, and effectiveness in an emergency situation.

  • Pedestal-mounted Eyewash Station

These are stand-alone units with a vertical structure, typically installed directly on the floor. Pedestal-mounted eyewash stations are prominent and easily accessible, thus, ideal for areas where wall space is limited. But at the same time, this type requires sufficient floor space and must be strategically placed to ensure quick access.

  • Wall-mounted Eyewash Station

Mounted on a wall, these wash stations save floor space and are often located near hazardous work areas. Wall-mounted eyewash stations are ideal for compact spaces. However, another consideration for wall-mounted eyewash stations is that they must be installed at a height accessible to all potential users. Furthermore, wall strength and stability are necessary for secure mounting.

  • Bench-Mounted Eyewash Station

This type of eyewash station is mounted on a countertop or bench. They are highly space-efficient and convenient for immediate use in circumstances where hazards are close to workstations. However, one disadvantage of bench-mounted eyewash stations is that they require an allocated bench space, which can be limiting in some settings.

  • Portable Eyewash Eyewash Station

Portable eyewash units are not fixed to a permanent water supply and can be carried or wheeled to various locations as needed. It offers significant flexibility to be moved close to temporary hazard areas and is also ideal for sites without direct plumbing. A key consideration when it comes to portable eyewash stations is that they require regular maintenance to ensure that the water supply is clean and functional. Furthermore, this type of eyewash station has limited water capacity.


Accessibility is crucial for an eye wash station's effectiveness. It must be within 10 seconds’ walk from the hazard location, as per ANSI Z358.1-2014 guidelines. The path to the station must be free of obstructions to ensure quick access and health administration during an emergency. Also, eyewash station units must meet the standard installation height to which it is easily reachable by all potential users.

Operation Type

The operation type of an eyewash station refers to how it is activated and used during an emergency. Options include hand-operated, foot-operated, or sensor-activated mechanisms.

  • Hand-operated units are common and require the user to push a lever or button to start the water flow.
  • Foot-operated stations provide the advantage of hands-free operation, beneficial when hands are injured or contaminated.
  • Sensor-activated models offer a touchless operation, minimizing the risk of further contamination and ensuring ease of use for workers.

Flow Characteristics and Pressure

The flow characteristics and pressure of an eyewash station are critical to its functionality and effectiveness in providing emergency eye relief.

The water pressure in an eyewash station must be regulated to achieve the right flow rate, which is essential for effective eye flushing. One of the eye wash station requirements according to ANSI Z358.1-2014 standards is that it should deliver a flow of about 0.4 gallons per minute (1.5 liters per minute) at 30 psi per nozzle. This flow rate ensures that both eyes can be simultaneously flushed with a gentle, yet effective stream of water. However, too high a pressure can damage the eyes, while too low a pressure may not adequately remove contaminants. A pressure control valve plays a crucial role in maintaining the correct flow rate and pressure. This valve adjusts the water pressure entering the emergency eyewash station to ensure a steady, controlled stream.

In addition, the height at which the water flows from the eyewash station should be carefully considered to ensure it meets the user’s needs. The nozzles should be positioned at a height suitable for the average user to comfortably access them without stooping or reaching too high, typically around 33 to 45 inches from the floor.

Stream Direction and Configuration

The eye wash station should have a well-designed stream direction and configuration to effectively cover the entire eye area. The nozzles of an eyewash station should be positioned to direct the flow of water gently into the eyes and converge at a point slightly below eye level, allowing the fluid to cover the entire surface of the eyes and surrounding areas adequately. In addition, the configuration of the eye wash station should allow for hands-free operation once activated, enabling the user to keep their eyes open and in the water stream without manual intervention.

Wash Coverage and Capacity

Wash coverage refers to the area that the water stream can effectively clean, which should encompass the full breadth of the eyes and face if necessary. Capacity is particularly important for portable eyewash stations, as they must contain enough fluid to deliver a continuous 15-minute flush, per ANSI standards. This capacity ensures that there is a sufficient volume of water or flushing fluid to dilute and remove chemicals or particulates effectively.

Construction and Material

The construction and material of an eyewash station are significant factors that determine its durability, maintenance needs, and suitability for different environments. Common materials include plastic, stainless steel, and occasionally, other metals or materials depending on specific requirements.


  • Pros: Plastic is highly resistant to corrosion, making it suitable for environments with exposure to chemicals or where rust is a concern. It is also generally less expensive than stainless steel, plastic offers a budget-friendly option without compromising on safety and functionality.
  • Cons: While high-quality plastics can be quite durable, they may not withstand the same level of physical abuse or extreme conditions as metal options. Some types of plastic may degrade over time when exposed to certain chemicals and corrosive materials, necessitating careful selection and possibly more frequent replacement.

Stainless Steel

  • Pros: Stainless steel is known for its strength and ability to withstand harsh conditions, including physical impacts and extreme temperatures. Metal also offers excellent resistance to a wide range of chemicals, making it ideal for environments with various hazardous substances.
  • Cons: In comparison, stainless steel is more expensive than plastic. And while stainless steel is corrosion-resistant, it can require more maintenance in harsh environments to prevent surface degradation.

Tepid Water Requirement and Solutions

Tepid water is a critical requirement for industrial safety wash stations. According to the ANSI Z358.1 standard, water temperature for wash stations must be between 60°F and 100°F to safely and effectively flush contaminants from the eyes, while avoiding thermal shock or scalding. There are two primary heating solutions for industrial wash stations - centralized and decentralized.

Centralized heating solutions are suited for large facilities with multiple stations. It supplies consistent temperature control and potential energy efficiency across all units, yet they require complex plumbing systems and can be costly to maintain. These systems ensure uniform tepid water supply but pose a risk of widespread service interruption if the central heater fails.

Decentralized heating solutions, in contrast, provide individual temperature control at each eyewash station, allowing for tailored adjustments and easier installation with less infrastructure modification. While offering operational flexibility and localized control, decentralized systems can incur higher initial and operational costs and necessitate cleaning and maintenance at multiple locations.

    Eye Wash Station Standards Compliance

    Compliance with standards such as ANSI Z358.1-2014 is crucial for eye wash unit effectiveness and legality. These standards from governing bodies such as OSHA and ANSI, dictate the design, operation, inspection, and maintenance requirements for eyewash stations to ensure they provide adequate eye and face injury treatment. Compliance involves regular testing, maintenance, and certification processes to confirm meeting the eye wash station requirements and performance criteria. Non-compliance can lead to inadequate emergency response capabilities and potential legal liabilities.



    What is a sufficient water flow for an eyewash/facewash station?

    A sufficient water flow for an eyewash/facewash station is 0.4 gallons per minute (1.5 liters per minute) per nozzle.

    Do eye wash stations need a drain?

    Eye wash stations do not necessarily need a drain, but having one can prevent water accumulation and potential slip hazards.

    What is the minimum rinse time for an eye wash station?

    The minimum rinse time for an eye wash station is 15 minutes.

    What must all eyewash stations contain?

    All eyewash stations must contain clean, tepid water or a suitable flushing fluid that is safe for the eyes.

    How often should eyewash stations be refilled?

    Portable eyewash stations should be refilled as per the manufacturer's instructions, typically after each test or use, ensuring the solution is fresh and uncontaminated.


    The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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    Author: Herbert Post

    Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.