5 ways staff may misuse your emergency decontamination equipment

Jun 14, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

Emergency decontamination equipment like eyewash facilities and safety showers need ongoing care and proper maintenance so they are always in good working condition and available in the event of a fire, chemical emergency or other contamination accident. Here at STOREMASTA we regularly visit worksites and often see quality safety equipment that has become non-compliant (and sometimes unusable) because of poor housekeeping standards and deliberate misuse. This blog identifies 5 ways your workers and contractors could misuse your safety equipment; plus some suggestions for counteracting this behaviour.

REMEMBER: Using a safety shower, eyewash unit, or drench hose inappropriately exposes each unit to additional wear and tear and may reduce the service life of the equipment.

STOREMASTA floor mounted eyewash station side view

 STOREMASTA floor mounted eyewash station top view







    1. Hand washing and personal hygiene

      Don’t allow your workers to get into the habit of using showers, drench hoses and eyewash stations as a drinking fountain or place to rinse off after coming in from the hot sun. An emergency can happen at any time, to anyone, on any shift — and a worker washing their face could create an unnecessary obstruction. Every second counts for an injured worker who is severely burned or is blinded by acid, so make sure each unit is always ready to save a life.

      Counteract Inappropriate use by:

      • Providing personal wash stations that are easily accessible to work areas.

      • Having staff keep personal care products in their lockers or restrooms.

      • Supervising workers and disciplining repeated incidences.

  1. Cleaning work tools and equipment

    Using a decontamination station to clean work tools and equipment can introduce dangerous substances to an area that is designed to serve an injured worker. There are documented cases where workers have suffered additional injuries after being exposed to chemical residues on eyewash nozzles. In one incidence it was because a lab employees were using a bench-mounted eyewash for rinsing chemicals from glassware instead of walking all the way to the sink.

    Counteract inappropriate use by:

    • Training staff in the correct methods of cleaning and maintaining working equipment.

    • Installing accessible wash stations for cleaning working equipment.     Ensuring managers and supervisors are leading by example and providing enough supervision.

  3. Disposing of waste materials

    Sometimes when staff don’t know what to do with a strange liquid they pour it down the sink or into the nearest drain. Other times it’s because they are lazy. Whatever the reason, disposing of potentially hazardous waste in and around the safety shower or eyewash can contaminate the equipment rendering it unsafe for emergency treatment. Corrosive waste could also damage the equipment or react dangerously with the construction materials or componentry.

    Counteract inappropriate use by:

    • Having a waste disposal procedure as well as waste facilities for different chemicals, Dangerous Goods and hazardous substances.

    • Training staff to understand the dangers of incorrect waste disposal and the contamination risks they are putting on their co-workers (and themselves).

    • Empowering workers to notify a supervisor if they are unsure of how to dispose of hazardous waste.

  5. Clogging the area with obstructions

    There must always be a clear path between a hazard and the emergency decontamination station. This is a requirement of AS4775-2007 - Emergency eyewash and shower equipment, so don’t allow your workers to clog up the area with pallets, raw materials, PPE, stationery supplies or personal items. Sometimes workers from other departments don’t understand the logistics of different work areas and may unwittingly park a forklift or leave an IBC in the wrong place.

    Counteract inappropriate use by:

    • Providing staff with lockers and areas to store personal effects.

    • Rationalise your work areas by installing a range of dedicated chemical cabinets, under-bench storage units, and cupboards for PPE and tools.

    • Train workers from other departments not to leave equipment or machinery in the path of the decontamination station.

  7. Failing to carry out maintenance

    It is a requirements of Australian Safety Standards that emergency showers and eyewash stations connected to a permanent water supply must be inspected and activated every week. This clears the lines of sediment and blockages as well as ensuring each unit is always fully operational. There are also requirements to ensure that units are always:

    • Inspected, tested and tagged for annual compliance by a qualified technician.

    • Kept in complete working order and any faults or damage quickly rectified.

    • Visible to the entire area being served by the shower or eyewash.

    • Are fitted with a compliant warning placard.

    • Failing to carry out required maintenance and integrity testing could leave an injured worker without access to decontamination equipment. Imagine a worker blinded by a caustic substance who has to be led to another eyewash station because the one in their work area is damaged and inoperable.

    Counteract inappropriate use by:

    • Introducing an inspection checklist that is completed by workers in charge of weekly  activation and testing. Have the checklist submitted to the HSE Manager for co-signing.

    • Programming the activation tests during off-peak times or during scheduled maintenance so theses duties are not left as an afterthought.

    • Including inspections and maintenance as required duties in job descriptions.

Next Steps

Proper care of your emergency decontamination equipment is an essential requirement of Australian Standard AS4775-2007. For more details about ensuring your safety showers and eyewash units are 100% compliant, download our free eBook How to select and use compliant emergency showers and eyewash equipment. Read it today by clicking on the image below:

How to Select and Use Compliant Emergency Showers and Eyewash Equipment

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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