Plumbed vs Portable Eye Wash Station: Choosing the Right One for Your Facility

comparison of plumbed and portable eye wash station

Eyewash Stations: Definition and Purpose

Eyewash stations are critical safety installations in workplaces that handle hazardous substances. They are designed to flush out chemicals, particles, or substances from the eyes and face, providing immediate relief and preventing serious injuries and long-term damage. These stations are a frontline defense in the event of an emergency, offering rapid response, and significantly safeguarding workers' vision and health. Both the plumbed eyewash station and portable eye wash station serve this essential purpose, yet they differ in design, installation, and maintenance requirements, catering to various industrial needs.

Having accessible eyewash stations in the workplace is not just a regulatory requirement; it's a critical component of a comprehensive safety program. Their presence embodies a company's commitment to safety and can significantly mitigate the severity of eye injuries, ensuring a safer and more prepared working environment.

Plumbed vs Portable Eye Wash Station

Plumbed eyewash stations are permanently connected to a source of potable water and are designed for locations where hazardous materials are handled regularly. These stations require a fixed installation and supplies a continuous, reliable flow of water for flushing out contaminants from the eyes and face.

Portable eyewash stations, on the other hand, are self-contained units that can be installed anywhere within a facility. They are ideal for areas without access to potable water or where hazardous materials are used intermittently. These units use a gravity-fed system to deliver flushing fluid and must be refilled or replaced after use.

Plumbed and portable eyewash stations each offer distinct advantages and disadvantages depending on specific workplace environments. Both types serve their purpose effectively if used in the settings most suitable for its setup. Here's a table summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of plumbed and portable eyewash stations to help you make an informed choice.

Advantages Disadvantages
Plumbed Eyewash Stations
  • Provides an unlimited water supply for extended flushing.
  • Often includes features like temperature control.
  • Ideal for areas with frequent use.
  • Requires professional installation and plumbing work.
  • Less flexibility in placement due to the need for a water connection.
  • Regular maintenance and testing are mandatory to ensure water quality.
Portable Eyewash Stations
  • Flexible placement allows for positioning near temporary hazards.
  • No plumbing required, easy to install and relocate.
  • Ideal for remote or temporary work sites.
  • Requires professional installation and plumbing work.
  • Less flexibility in placement due to the need for a water connection.
  • Regular maintenance and testing are mandatory to ensure water quality.


Infographic comparing plumbed & portable eye wash station

Choosing the Right Emergency Eyewash Station for Your Needs

Assessing Workplace Hazards and Risks

Selecting the appropriate emergency eyewash station begins with a thorough assessment of workplace hazards and risks. Identify the types of chemicals and substances used within the facility, understanding their potential harm to the eyes and skin. Consider the frequency of these materials' usage and the likelihood of accidental exposure. High-risk areas, where hazardous corrosive materials are handled daily, necessitate reliable eye wash stations and safety showers that can deliver immediate and sustained flushing. Regulatory compliance and safety standards should guide this evaluation, ensuring that the chosen solution adequately protects employees from the specific dangers present in their work environment.

Considerations for Space and Mobility

The physical layout of your facility plays a crucial role in selecting between a plumbed eyewash station and a portable eyewash station. For environments with limited space or where hazards are mobile, a portable eyewash station offers the flexibility needed to ensure safety is always within reach. They are particularly beneficial for construction sites, laboratories, and facilities undergoing renovations. Conversely, areas with a permanent setup and sufficient space benefit from the stability and constant readiness of a plumbed eyewash station. Additionally, consider the ease of access for emergency responders and the path an injured person would need to take to reach the station, ensuring it is free of obstacles and within the recommended distance from hazardous areas.


Safety Standards and Requirements

OSHA Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets forth comprehensive regulations to ensure workplace safety, including specific mandates for eyewash stations and safety showers under standard 29 CFR 1910.151(c). OSHA requires that employers provide suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body when employees are exposed to harmful chemicals. While OSHA outlines the necessity for eyewash stations, it does not specify detailed requirements regarding their design or performance. Instead, it often refers employers to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for detailed guidelines on installation, maintenance, and performance of an emergency eyewash station.

ANSI Requirements

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) plays a critical role in defining the safety criteria for eyewash stations through the ANSI Z358.1 standard. This comprehensive document specifies minimum performance, use, installation, and maintenance requirements for eyewash stations to ensure they operate effectively in case of exposure to hazardous materials. Key provisions include the requirement that flushing fluid must be tepid, the eyewash station must be accessible within 10 seconds or about 55 feet from the hazard, and it must provide a minimum 15-minute flushing period. ANSI's guidelines are considered best practices and are widely adopted by many industries to comply with OSHA regulations and ensure a safe working environment.



Do eyewash stations need to be plumbed?

No, eye wash stations do not need to be plumbed; there are both plumbed and portable options available to meet different workplace needs.

What are the rules for portable eyewash station?

Portable eyewash units must be maintained according to the manufacturer's instructions, ensuring the flushing fluid is sterile and the unit is accessible within 10 seconds of a hazard.

What does a plumbed eyewash station use?

A plumbed eyewash station uses a continuous supply of potable water connected through the facility's plumbing system.

How often should portable eyewash stations be checked?

Portable eyewash stations should be checked at least weekly to ensure the flushing solution is filled and not contaminated, and the unit is in good working order.

What type of water is used for eyewash stations?

Eyewash stations typically use potable water or a preserved, buffered saline solution that is safe for flushing the eyes.

How do you refill a portable eyewash station?

Refill a portable eyewash station according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually by adding a prescribed amount of sterile saline solution or by replacing the entire fluid container.

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.