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Eye Wash & Emergency Showers

Emergency showers and eye wash facilities can make a world of difference. Accidental exposure to dangerous chemicals is always a possibility regardless of any safety precautions which are in place. Safety showers are vital in the event of an accident involving splashes or sprays of hazardous substances, as it can be of great benefit for the casualty to flush clothes and skin as swiftly as possible. The first 10 seconds after exposure to a caustic or corrosive material are paramount and a slow response can aggravate the damage, and heighten the likelihood of long term serious injury, persistent disability or even death. Similarly eye wash supplies are important because eyes are extremely vulnerable and easily damaged and one accident could quickly rob someone of their ability to see. See our guide or FAQs for guidance.

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Eye Wash Buying Guide


It is an employer’s duty under The Health and Safety at Work Act to conduct a risk assessment which considers these factors and to then implement appropriate measures. Before thinking about treating potential victims though, it is a good idea to consider what can be done to prevent accidents in the first place. Over at our protective equipment section you’ll find coveralls which are chemical resistant along with goggles and glasses to prevent eye splashes. You should also consider the safe storage and handling of chemicals and other potentially dangerous substances and you will find a wealth of information and relevant products in our COSHH area.

The employer also has a responsibility under the 1981 Health and Safety First Aid Regulations to provide “adequate and appropriate” facilities for implementing first aid, ensuring employees have knowledge of the equipment as well as its location. To assist this we can provide a range of signage related to first aid eye wash and showers. HSE also provides guidance for specific circumstances which includes the following:

Small burns and scalds should be treated by flushing the affected area with plenty of clean cool water
For chemical burns, flush affected parts of the body with plenty of clean, cool water ensuring that all the chemical is so diluted as to be rendered harmless
Foreign bodies in the eye must be irrigated with clean, cool water if the object cannot be removed
Chemicals in eyes should be treated by flushing the open eye with clean, cool water for at least 5 to 10 minutes or even longer if there is any doubt.
To deal with these situations there is an array of equipment available:

Safety showers are designed to flush the user's skin as quickly as possible. They should not be used on eyes because the high rate or pressure of water flow could damage the eyes in some instances. Safety showers are provided to wash off hazardous chemicals that may be splashed on the skin. Large volumes of water should be used to wash away contaminants and it may be necessary to remove contaminated clothing. Safety showers can also be used effectively in extinguishing clothing fires or for flushing contaminants off clothing.

Eye baths and eye fountain units are handy and potentially sight saving facilities which give employees a quick way of rinsing out eyes in the event of contamination. They are designed to flush the eyes and face area only. Eye wash units can be mounted on walls, pedestals or work surfaces depending on the type of hazard or working environment.

Most showers and eye wash units can be supplied with a wide range of optional fittings to make them easier to use and to alert co-workers and first aiders. These include local and remote alarms, lighting and a choice of devices to activate the shower such as pull rods, panic bars and foot plates.
Emergency safety showers and eye wash units are either supplied alone or as a combination unit. Limited space may deem separate units are the preferred option. However, combination showers and cover all potential accidents.

According to HSE guidance, if mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least one litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9% w/v) in sealed, disposable containers should be provided. Our eye wash bottles and pods are a convenient portable solution and here you’ll find specialist products such as duo bottles allowing both eyes to be rinsed at once as well as neutral pH solutions.

FAQs


Where should emergency shower/eye wash facilities be located?


Emergency safety showers can be floor standing, or where space is restricted, mounted on walls or ceiling. They should be located in an obvious location, easy to see and get to. Anyone trying to get to the station within 10 seconds and should not be impeded by obstacles.

Should saline eye wash solutions or pH neutral eye wash solutions be used?


Saline eye wash solutions act as a substitute when water is not available. They are used to remove foreign objects such as dirt and dust from the eye. Saline solution can also be used for chemicals which are not highly acidic or alkaline (between 4 and 10 on the pH scale). Any chemical with a pH value above 9 or below 4 has the potential to burn the cornea, and this is when it’s a good idea to use a pH neutralising solution. Both types work by irrigating the eye to remove the chemical and there’s no risk if you use a pH neutralising solution for a non acid or alkaline chemical.

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