Most essential bath ever taken

While prevention is always the best approach, companies should be equipped to reduce harm once an accident occurs. MARISKA MORRIS takes a look at how safety showers and eyebaths can assist employees who are exposed to hazardous chemicals

Although precautionary procedures and protective clothing remain the most important aspects of workplace safety, employers should also be prepared to respond when an accident occurs, whether this means stocking a burn kit, providing first aid or installing eyebaths and showers. The latter is particularly important for industries in which employees are exposed to hazardous substances.

When harmful chemicals make contact with the eye, the individual has seconds to respond. In fact, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), damage to the eye can occur within 10 to 15 seconds after contamination. Failure to respond in time could worsen the situation and even result in blindness.

As technical sales director at Spray Nozzle, Karl Loubser, points out: “Those first seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance – especially a corrosive one – are critical. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury.

“Though not a replacement for primary protective equipment, such as eye and face protection, these baths are required as a very necessary back-up to mitigate the effects of accidental exposure to harmful chemicals. Emergency showers and eyewash stations provide on-the-spot decontamination that allow workers to flush away hazardous substances that could cause injury.”

To ensure eyebaths and showers are effective, employers need to understand the strict requirements associated with them. First, the CCOHS points out that a shower is not an acceptable alternative to an eyebath.

“Emergency showers are designed to flush the user’s head and body. They should not be used to flush the user’s eyes, because the high rate or pressure of water flow could damage the eyes in some instances,” the CCOHS states. Ideally, companies should conduct a risk analysis to determine whether a shower, eyebath or both are required.

There are also combination units available, which are ideal for work environments where employees might not have detailed information about the hazards, for example a mine.

Each unit also has very specific design requirements to ensure that it is easy to use and effective. An eyebath, for example, should deliver fluid to both eyes simultaneously while the worker keeps his or her eyelids open with both hands. It should activate in less than a second and remain active for as long as needed.

The Spray Nozzle product offering includes an eyebath with a hands-free solution. Loubser notes: “A Spraydrench platform operated or fully automatic safety shower alleviates the need to locate and activate a valve physically, which saves valuable exposure seconds. It allows the individual to use both hands to hold his or her eyes open or remove contaminated clothing in accordance with the correct safety standards.”

In addition, the Spraydrench product range provides solutions to extreme water temperatures, harsh working environments, space constraints, remote locations and access to portable water. Loubser explains: “The American National Standards Institute standard requires the use of tepid water or flushing fluid for all safety shower and eyewash applications.

“Spray Nozzle offers various special valve options to ensure the delivery of tepid water to Spraydrench emergency equipment to, for example, protect against excessive hot water that could scald an injured worker or possibly compound chemical reactions. There are also freeze-protection and over-temperature valves.”

The range further includes corrosion-resistant units for harsh conditions; smaller eyebaths and showers for workplaces with limited space; and a gravity-fed safety shower and eyebath for remote locations with limited access to water.

“To ensure awareness of an incident or safety shower activation, a strobe beacon and alarm with control box and connection to a programmable logic controller setup are also available if necessary,” Loubser says.

Although there is a wide range of showers and baths available to ensure employees can safely decontaminate themselves, many employers see these as a grudge purchase, and this might lead to the purchase of a unit ill-equipped for the environment.

“Some common mistakes made when purchasing a safety shower or eyebath include purchasing equipment that is not designed in accordance with the necessary safety standards; acquiring the incorrect equipment for the application; improper installation (including incorrect placement and insufficient water supply or pressure); and no regular inspections or maintenance,” Loubser points out.

Loubser advises employers to first do their homework before making a purchase. “Ask for qualified advice in order to select the right unit for your specific requirements,” he says.

“Use a reputable company of a long track record with proven success in this line of products. Don’t skimp on getting the correct and quality equipment; it could save lives. Regularly train your staff to maintain and use the safety shower and eyewash equipment correctly,” he concludes.

With its ISO 9001:2015 quality management standard obtained in September 2018 (and kept), Spray Nozzle meets the manufacturing standards set out by the United States, Germany and Europe. It is ideally placed to advise businesses on shower and eyewash equipment.

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