A Beginner’s Guide to Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations

A Beginner’s Guide to Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations


Many workers face hazardous chemicals on a daily basis, and although safety practices have greatly improved throughout the years, accidental chemical exposure can still occur. This means it is crucial to look beyond the use of face shields, glasses, or PPE procedures, and to have the right emergency eyewash station and shower in your workplace.

Knowing what to do in the event of exposure to a hazardous substance is also critical: this could be the difference between a minor irritation and permanent injury to the eyes. The first 10 to 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance, especially a corrosive substance, are critical. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, could cause serious injuries.

Currently, there are no Canadian standards for the use and installation of emergency showers or eyewash stations. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, "Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment" Z358.1-2014, is therefore often used as a guide.

Where can this equipment be required?

  • Laboratories and classrooms

  • Hazardous substances discharge areas

  • Battery charging areas

  • Spraying operations

  • High-dust areas

  • Dipping and coating operations

What’s the difference between emergency showers and eyewash stations?

  • Emergency showers are made to wash an individual’s head and body that were in contact with hazardous chemicals. They shouldn’t be used to flush the worker’s eyes and face. A significant amount of water is used, and the high pressure could damage a user’s eyes.

  • Eyewash stations are made only to flush the eyes and face area. The user will need to wash their eyes at the station for at least 15 minutes before seeking further medical attention.

The need for emergency showers or eyewash stations is based on the potential hazard the workers may be facing. If the effect of the hazard is limited to the worker’s face and eyes, an eyewash station may be the appropriate choice. If workers risk partial or full-body contact with a chemical, an emergency shower will be a better option.

Hazards assessments will provide great insight into the selection of an emergency shower, eyewash station, or both.

Do’s and don’ts

  • Safety showers and eyewash stations should be located within a 10-seconds walking distance of the hazard and must be located on the same level, so the worker doesn’t have to go up and down the stairs in the event of an accident.

  • The location should be identified with a sign, and the area should be well illuminated. The pathway should be free of obstructions and easily accessible.

  • All workers need proper instruction and training for the use and location of an emergency shower or eyewash station before any incident happens. Written procedures and instructions need to be made available to all workers.

  • Test the emergency stations at least once a week, and before undertaking high-risk jobs.

  • Make sure you have blankets and spare clothing stored near the emergency shower. Also, consider installing a modesty curtain: users will need to take off any work clothing that has been contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

  • Make sure you leave the dust cover supplied with the eyewash station in place since they help prevent dust and debris from falling inside the station and from becoming projectiles when the unit is set in motion.

  • Don’t install residential showers as an emergency shower station since the flushing liquid flow does not meet the ANSI standard.