Shower them with safety

Shower them with safety

Emergency safety showers and eyebaths provide immediate relief to a person splashed by hazardous chemicals, fine dust, or metal shavings. This can be the difference between life and death.

Any company with on-site chemical or hydrocarbon products must have eyewash stations installed, says Kevin Murphy, MD of environmental, health, and safety provider Spill Doctor.

“In the Occupational Safety and Health Act, under the General Safety Regulations 1031 of 30 May, 1986, and Section 3 (which pertains to first aid, emergency equipment, and procedures), Clauses 8 and 9 clearly state the requirement for eyewash stations and showers,” he points out.

According to Clause 8: “Where an employee is exposed or can be exposed to a potential hazard of injury to the eye through contact with a biological or chemical substance, the employer concerned shall make sure that there is an eyewash fountain or any similar facilities, in the immediate vicinity of the workplace of such employee and that the employee is trained in the use thereof.”

Clause 9, meanwhile, states: “Where an employee at a workplace is exposed or can be exposed to a potential hazard of injury to or absorption through the skin, as a result of sudden contact with a large amount of toxic, corrosive, high risk or similar hazardous substance, the employer concerned shall make sure that there is a fast-reacting deluge-shower with clean water or a similar facility in the immediate vicinity of the workplace of such employee and that the employee is trained in the use thereof.”

The first 10 seconds following exposure, according to Hughes, an international supplier of safety showers, is the critical period to minimise serious injury in cases of chemical splashes: “The longer the chemical substance remains on the skin, the more damaging it is,” the company points out. “Safety showers should therefore be located within 10 seconds (approximately 15 m away) from where any incident can occur. Ten seconds is about the same amount of time it takes to tie your shoelaces or to fold a T-shirt.”

Hughes also notes that under no circumstances should an injured person have to navigate multiple stairs, while in the case of impaired vision, the path to emergency equipment must be simple and unobstructed. The company advises placing stations in prominent, clearly marked, well-lit positions.

Emergency safety shower stations must be accessible and easy to operate, even with impaired vision. “Safety showers and eyewash valves should be designed so the flushing flow remains on without the use of the operator’s hands. The control valve must go from ‘off’ to ‘on’ in one second or less,” Hughes expands.

Emergency showers also need to deliver sufficient flow (according to Hughes, 76 litres/minute for 15 minutes) to provide enough time to remove contaminated clothing and rinse thoroughly. If the flow rate is too low, hazardous chemicals may remain on the skin and could lead to ongoing chemical burns.

The temperature of eyebaths and emergency showers is also important: Hughes notes that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requires a safety shower and emergency eye/face wash equipment to deliver tepid water between 16 and 38˚C.

“Adhering to these parameters can be the difference between life and death. The human body strives to maintain a steady internal temperature within a normal range of 32 to 38˚C. When the body encounters water temperature significantly above or below its core temperature, it instinctively reacts,” explains the safety shower supplier.

Whether water is scalding or freezing, the natural reaction is to protect the body by withdrawing from temperature extremes. ANSI recommends at least 15 minutes of shower time to completely rinse away most hazardous chemicals, though – this requires these tepid temperatures. The temperature range does provide some problems, however, like bacterial growth in emergency tank showers, with Hughes noting that bacteria thrive between 20 and 45°C.

In some environments, either a consistent supply of potable water cannot be guaranteed, or tepid temperatures may be difficult to maintain in extreme ambient temperatures. Emergency tank showers provide a viable solution in these circumstances, but water held in the tanks can become stagnant because tanks may go unused for extended periods of time. This makes the water susceptible to bacterial growth. If not properly treated and maintained, this can become a source of infection.

Hughes provides some practical steps to limiting the growth of bacteria: “ANSI requires that safety showers and eyewash stations are tested at least once a week. This weekly activation process displaces stagnant water in the pipework and flushes out corrosion or sediment, reducing the risk of bacteria growth.”

Flushing time depends on the water volume within the unit, but following a real-life emergency scenario ensures that the equipment is able to run for the required time.

“The UK Health and Safety Executive developed a guide to help with controlling the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria,” Hughes highlights. “It recommends developing a risk assessment profile for all man-made water systems, including safety showers and eye/face wash equipment. A routine inspection cycle should include sterilising strainers, shower heads, and nozzles.”

Spill Doctor also offers a range of eyewash stations and combination showers that can be wall-mounted or placed on pedestals at various points, with Murphy emphasising that employees should always be an employer’s number one priority.

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SHEQ Management

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