To be effective, emergency decontamination equipment needs to be installed correctly and in a location that will best serve the employees and contractors working in the area. This blog introduces 5 essential considerations that will help you decide on the best safety shower configuration for your job site.
REMEMBER: The first 10-15 seconds after a burn or chemical-related injury are critical and could mean the difference between life, death and permanent injuries.
1. What other hazardous materials are in the immediate area?
One of the most important considerations before installing a safety shower is identifying any potentially hazardous materials used or stored in the immediate area. You don’t want the activation of your safety shower to create another hazard or injure another worker. Here some questions to ask:
Could the water from the safety shower reach electrical equipment? Water entering switches, powerboards and batteries can cause fires and electrocution hazards.
Are there any chemicals stored nearby that could react dangerously with water? Class 4 Dangerous Goods can ignite when in contact with water.
How will the worker’s contaminated clothing and personal effects be removed and managed? Clothing and PPE covered in highly corrosive chemicals thrown on the ground as a worker enters the shower could be picked up by another worker and injure them as well.
Will the wastewater create a slip hazard? Workers slipping on water from the shower could be seriously injured or create another chemical emergency.
REMEMBER: When activating an emergency shower you don’t want to expose the injured worker (and first aiders) to additional hazards.
2. Could a worker be alone at the time of a chemical emergency?
Sometimes workers at outdoor and remote workstations can become isolated from their co-workers. Is there any chance that one of your workers could be completely alone at the time of a chemical emergency or fire? Some workplaces have duress alarms installed at their emergency decontamination stations or have workers wear electronic devices that can be activated in times of duress.
REMEMBER: An injured worker may not be able to operate a safety shower and notify an ambulance or emergency services without assistance.
3. Does the location provide employees with privacy?
When a worker is splashed or immersed in hazardous chemicals, contaminants become trapped in their clothing and will continue to burn the skin even when standing under the safety shower. So many chemical emergencies require a contaminated worker to remove their clothing and sometimes that means everything.
We read a lot of blogs that suggest women and people of certain cultures might be hesitant to remove their clothing. But actually there aren’t many people in the whole world who would feel comfortable stripping in front of their co-workers, line-supervisors and managers. There are many recorded incidents of lab workers spilling acid on their cloth (both men and women) who have walked past a safety shower and into the toilets to remove their clothing and wash the burn. Unfortunately this resulted in second degree burns that could have been minimised or prevented if they had gone directly to the safety shower and removed all of their clothes.
Consider the location point of the shower and the type of training that will reinforce the need for injured workers to remove all their clothing. It could be buddy-training where one worker creates a privacy screen, while another assists an injured worker and secures their personal effects. It’s really about making your workers feel confident their privacy will be respected.
4. How will prevailing weather affect the operations of the emergency shower?
If your emergency shower (or the supply pipes) are directly exposed to the weather, could this impact the usability (and safety) of the shower? Many worksites in regional Australia face extreme heat and cold at different times of year and this could impact the temperature of the water flowing out of the shower. Extremely hot water could scold a worker and magnify their injury, while extremely cold water will make the patient uncomfortable and they might be unwilling to stay under the shower for the full treatment time.
REMEMBER: An emergency shower is useless if the water in the pipes is frozen solid, or unsafe if the water in the pipes is 50°C after sitting in the sun all day.
5. Can emergency response teams easily access the patient?
Another important consideration are the access points for paramedics and emergency response teams. If the shower is indoors how close is the shower to an emergency exit? Could an emergency responder safely administer O2 in the area? Will their movements be restricted? If the shower is outdoors could an ambulance drive right up to the accident scene or the shower?
REMEMBER: The sooner a seriously injured patient receives proper medical treatment by paramedics and ambulance teamsi, the greater the chance of survival and the minimisation of injuries.
If your workplace has the need for any type of emergency decontamination equipment including safety showers and eyewash units, download our free eBook: How to select and use compliant emergency showers and eyewash equipment. It’s a detailed compliance guide for busy HSE Managers and supervisors written in concise, easy-to-understand English. Read it today by clicking on the image below.