5 essential practices to ensure your emergency decontamination facilities are  effective

Jun 14, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

You’ve purchased a compliant safety shower and eyewash station, it’s installed and ready for use. How will you make sure the equipment is always ready to serve your workers in an emergency? This blog introduces 5 essential practices for ensuring your emergency decontamination facilities are always a compliant and effective safety measure.

IMPORTANT: Maintenance procedures should include mechanisms for workers to report defective safety equipment as soon as identified so that prompt remedial action can be taken. Safe Work Australia.

 

  1. Maintenance and integrity testing

    Workplaces can be tough environments — especially when they carry hazardous chemicals. New hazards can emerge as quickly as things fall into disrepair, and outdoor stations can deteriorate very quickly if they are constantly exposed to extremes in heat, cold, wind, rain, dust, hail as well as impact from flying objects.

    One of the most important parts of having emergency equipment in place, is to schedule regular inspections, integrity testing and ntenance to repair or replace any items that are missing, worn, or damaged. In Australia all emergency showers, eyewash stations, drench hoses and personal wash units have maintenance requirements according to Australian Safety Standards (see table below).

    Maintenance requirements of AS4775-2007 - Emergency eyewash and shower equipment

    Monitored to determine if flushing fluid needs to be changed or supplemented. Weekly activation and inspection Annual inspection, testing and tagging by qualified technician
    • Self-contained eyewash

    • Self-contained shower

    • Self-contained eye/face wash

    • Self-contained eyewash

    • Self-contained shower

    • Plumbed eyewash

    • Plumbed shower

    • Plumbed eye/face wash

    • Drench hoses

    • Personal wash units

     

    IMPORTANT: Your weekly activation test should consider water quality and water pressure but also check that the mandatory placards are in place and the area is free of obstacles.

     

  2. Inspections and safety audits

    Support your weekly maintenance and integrity testing with regular inspections and safety audits, remembering that workplace inspections often become so routine they are reduced to mere ‘tick and flick’ exercises. A safety audit conducted by an objective party — like workers from another department or  external auditors — can be an effective way of objectively reviewing the compliance and effectiveness of your emergency equipment.

    Inspections uncover things like:

    • Equipment being misused (eg, washing hands and other objects in the eyewash basin).

    • Changes to the work environment which reduce the effectiveness of the unit (eg, increase in the number of workers in the area supported by a safety shower)

    • New hazards introduced since the equipment was installed (eg, lab workers no longer purchasing pre-mixed chemicals but mixing everything themselves).

     REMEMBER: External teams often notice hazards and concerns that are overlooked (or ignored) by workers and supervisors who are either immersed in their own working environment (or don’t want to get into trouble.)

  3. Training and competency checksSTOREMASTA floor mounted eyewash station full image

    Your safety showers, eyewash stations, drench hoses and personal wash units will quickly fall into disrepair if staff are not trained to use them correctly. Like all safety measures, the effectiveness of your decontamination equipment will depend on the competencies of both workers and supervisors. Because once trained, workers must also be properly supervised.

    Training should focus on:

    • Nature of the hazardous materials they use and handle.

    • How to handle chemicals and perform work operations safely.

    • Actions to take in an emergency (eg, fire, explosion, chemical spill).

    • Selecting and using the correct equipment during an emergency (eg, acid in the eyes, eyewash unit for 30 minutes).

    • Housekeeping procedures to care for the emergency decontamination station in their work zone.

    • Responsibilities under the WHS Act to follow procedures and use equipment properly.

    • Prohibited activities and how misusing equipment can directly impact their own wellbeing.

     REMEMBER: Effective training requires regular revision and opportunities to practice. Schedule remedial sessions as well as simulated emergency drill training.

     

  4. Supervision and accountability

    It is a requirement of the WHS Act that workers take responsibility for their own wellbeing, health and safety while at work. This includes following procedures and taking care of safety equipment. At the same time the Act requires that workers are properly trained and supervised.

    We recommend building accountabilities into job descriptions and empowering your people to take action when equipment is being misused, procedures aren’t being followed, or something has become damaged. For example:

    1. A worker is accountable if they are found washing lab glassware with a drench hose in the decontamination station.

    2. A supervisor is accountable if it has become a common practice to leave work areas in a mess with obstructions in front of safety showers.

    3. A manager is accountable if new hazards arise in a work area and the emergency decontamination equipment is no longer effective or compliant.

     

  5. Up-to-date hazards information

    Emergency decontamination equipment directly relates to the hazards in a work area, so our last essential practice is to ensure that you are regularly reviewing those hazards. This includes:

    • Using a four-step risk management methodology (IDENTIFY-ASSESS-CONTROL-SUSTAIN) to ensure hazards are regularly monitored.

    • Checking for new information about chemical hazards from Safety Data Sheets .

    • Monitoring industry developments for emerging technologies that enable safer work methods and more efficient equipment.

Next steps

Ensuring your emergency decontamination equipment is properly maintained is an essential requirement of Australian Safety Standards. For more information about making sure your safety shower and eyewash facility is both compliant and effective download our free eBook How to select and use compliant emergency showers and eyewash equipment. Read it today for the next step in chemical safety and compliance.

How to Select and Use Compliant Emergency Showers and Eyewash Equipment

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping businesses reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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