Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety EH&S Factsheets

Emergency Showers & Eyewash Facilities


Emergency washing facilities must be provided in any work area in which “chemical contact agents” are used. This includes corrosives, irritants, and chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin surface.
When chemical contact agents are present, departments are to provide suitable facilities within the work area for immediate emergency use, including an eyewash station and a deluge safety shower and/or drench hose station. Drench hoses may be used to supplement emergency washing facilities; however they may not be used as a substitute.
In addition, emergency washing facilities are not a substitute for appropriate personal protective equipment or safe laboratory practices.
In general, emergency showers and eyewashes must be located within 50 feet/10 seconds of the site of chemical contact agent use.

Eyewash Maintenance

Eyewashes must be inspected weekly and should be recorded in a log. Responsibility for inspections resides with the principal investigator or supervisor, but the inspections can be delegated to appropriately trained personnel. This is easily accomplished using a tag attached to or a small log posted next to the eyewash unit that contains the date and inspector’s initials. The inspector should verify the following items during an inspection:

  • The eyewash unit and immediate area should be free from trash, debris or other obstructions that prevent easy access in an emergency. Since the user will most likely be in pain and unable to see well, clear access is essential.
  • The equipment does not leak and all parts are in good working condition. Units not functioning properly should be reported to Facilities Operations.
  • The eyewash unit has water flow adequate to irrigate and flush both eyes simultaneously. The water should flow until all debris is flushed and the water runs clear. Activating the unit frequently also flushes out microorganisms that grow in the air/water interface that can lead to eye disease.

Eyewash Use

To wash eyes, activate the eyewash unit, hold both eyelids open with fingers from both hands, place the eyes into the stream of water, and roll the eyeballs so that flushing fluid will flow on all surfaces of the eyes and under the eyelids.
Consult the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the amount of time required to flush the specific chemical from the eyes. If this is not possible or if the MSDS does not specify a time, rinse for at least 15 minutes. Seek appropriate medical attention as necessary.

Portable/Personal Eyewash Units

When activities involving the use of chemicals are not at a fixed location, self-contained portable units must be provided. Further, personal eyewash bottles must be provided where work with chemicals is too far from either a fixed location or portable unit and are to be used only as a stop-gap emergency measure until a fixed or portable unit can be reached.
Portable units and personal eyewash bottles must be checked to make sure they are clean, not contaminated with chemicals, and the solution in them has not expired. If the solution has expired or the container has been opened, the solution must be replaced.
Personal eyewash bottles should be kept in a clean bag since they are carried with the user when using chemicals.
Portable and personal units not meeting the above requirements should be reported to the area principle investigator or supervisor.

Safety Shower Maintenance

Safety showers are inspected at initial installation and annually afterwards by Facilities Operations, as well as by EH&S during laboratory inspections.

Safety Shower Use

To wash other body parts using the safety shower, activate the shower and place the contaminated body parts under the flow of water. Remove contaminated clothing to enable adequate decontamination. Flush for at least 15 minutes or as indicated by the MSDS.
Measures that help insure proper decontamination using a safety shower include either the installation of a privacy curtain around the shower, or having a curtain or blanket available near the shower that can be held if there is a need to remove clothing to allow for proper decontamination. Having an oversized garment such as a sweat suit available by the shower is also recommended so that alternate clothing is immediately available.


The principle investigator or supervisor is responsible for providing instructions regarding the location and proper use of emergency washing facilities.

Getting Assistance

Additional information about emergency eyewash and safety shower requirements can be found in the:

EH&S personnel are available to evaluate work areas to determine the need for emergency washing facilities and make recommendations for the selection of an appropriate unit and installation location.