Portable vs Plumbed? How to Choose.
The most costly injury, of the more than 5 million unintentional work related injuries in the U.S., involves
the head, averaging $82,382 per claim. In any environment, occupational safety should be taken very
seriously and appropriate emergency response is a crucial component to the overall safety of your
employees and your company.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), 29 CFR 1910.151, requires that “Where the
eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick
drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate
emergency use.” OSHA turns to The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z358.1-2014 Standard
for specifics on selection, installation, operation and maintenance requirements.
Proper emergency equipment selection is a function of
knowing your risks, the characteristics of the materials you
work with, and logical consideration of the variety of
products and design configurations available.
Once you’ve determined that an emergency station is needed, you need to define whether a portable
or plumbed station is most appropriate. But first, you must be aware of the difference. A portable
eyewash is a self-contained ANSI-compliant emergency response product that is needed for locations
without access to water and can be moved at a moment’s notice to meet the rapidly evolving
needs of a chemical, manufacturing, or construction environment. There are various types of portable
eyewashes including gravity-fed, air-pressurized, and personal squeeze bottles (reference ANSI Z358.1
Supplemental Equipment/Personal Wash Units [Section 8.1]). Portable stations can provide added
flexibility, a benefit in today’s dynamic work settings. A plumbed unit is just as it sounds; a permanent
emergency response solution that is in a fixed location connected to a continuous source of potable
water with sufficient flow and pressure for ANSI compliance and victim comfort.
ANSI Z358.1 requires that all emergency stations, portable or plumbed, must provide sufficient flow
(flow rate depends on product type i.e. eyewash vs. eye/face wash vs. shower) for a minimum of 15
minutes. They are also required to be located within 10 seconds of the potential hazard. Supplemental
eyewashes, such as personal squeeze bottles, are a useful solution while a victim is en route to primary
In addition to water source, ask yourself these questions when determining if a portable or plumbed unit
If it is a static work station, a plumbed unit is the recommended product choice and must be
installed so it is reachable within 10 seconds of the hazard. If the hazard is mobile such as a
construction site, a portable product is recommended and is to be accessible within 10 seconds
of the hazard.
If the emergency fixture will be located in an area where the internal water temperature could
drop below 60°F (16°C) or rise above 100°F (38°C), the water temperature will need to be regulated.
Most portable units do not provide an option for tempered water, therefore a plumbed unit along
with a tempering solution is the recommendation. Although a few manufacturers do offer a
tempered portable station.
Maintenance of portable and plumbed units differ. As portable units hold
stagnant water, they are required to be drained and refilled with potable
water on a more frequent basis. Most eyewash manufacturers offer a sterile
preservative that keeps the water for an average of 3 months. On a weekly
basis, ANSI requires a visual inspection to take place to ensure the unit is
full and clean. Regarding plumbed units, there is an ANSI-mandated weekly activation requirement to
verify proper operation and to flush buildup that may have formed due to stagnant water in the piping
It’s impossible to predict when an injury will harm a workers’ eyes, face or body, but it is possible to take
proactive preventative measures by supplying the appropriate emergency response equipment for
maximum victim comfort and response.
See below for more details: