Do you have emergency equipment in place at your worksite that will be always available during a chemical emergency?
If you use, store, or handle hazardous chemicals you’ll need emergency response equipment to deal with any type of accidental spill or exposure incident. This blog looks at some of the essential emergency equipment required under WHS Regulations and Australian Safety Standards.
Spill containment systems
Wherever there is a risk of chemical spillage you must have containment facilities and emergency cleanup equipment in place. This can include:
Chemical safety cabinets with inbuilt spill containment sumps.
Under-pallet bunds and drip trays to deal with everyday splashes and minor spills.
Fully contained lube stations.
Emergency spill kits that consist of plugging gear, absorbent materials, neutralisers, classifier strips, PPE, cleanup tools, waste containers, emergency signage etc.
The humble broom as well as mops, scoops, buckets, squeegees and plastic bins are also essential emergency response equipment. Don’t rely on stocks in your general cleaning stores, purchase and set aside dedicated emergency cleaning gear.
First aid stations
Install a first aid station that is equipped to deal with possible exposure accidents involving any chemicals used or stored nearby. Make sure the area is kept clean. Your kit must contain instructions for first aid responders and the HAZCHEM register should also be located as close as possible.
The contents of the first aid kit will always be based on the advice provided in Safety Data Sheets, but in many instances the most reliable method of treatment is to flush the skin, eyes, and contaminated clothing in water. There are very few true antidotes available for chemical poisonings or burns, and even if available should be used with extreme caution.
Your First Aid Station will contain protective gloves and other equipment to ensure the safety of trained first aiders, plus you will probably need scissors capable of quickly cutting away contaminated clothes, and waste bags. If the SDS indicates that administering CPR would be dangerous to the first aider, your first aid kit should contain a mask or face shield.
IMPORTANT: First aiders require specific training about the hazardous properties of chemicals and how to treat a workmate (or themselves) without compromising their own safety.
Emergency showers and eye wash stations
Emergency showers and eyewash stations must be installed within 10 metres of hazardous chemical stores, decanting, and handling ares. The best units are plumbed in to allow a continuous stream of water over the body (or up into the eyes), this must last for at least 15 minutes.
It’s also really important to understand that emergency showers and eyewash stations are two entirely different units and cannot be interchanged. An emergency shower is designed to drench the whole body and often involves water at high pressure. Whereas an eyewash station delivers a softer flow of tepid water and must sustain a lower water pressure that will not harm the eyes. It is possible to buy combination units that have both a shower head as well as irrigation systems for the eyes.
Compliant units have the following features (as a minimum):
Installed in a well lit area and easy to identify by colouring and signage (high-vis powder coat finishes are best).
Located on the same level as the chemicals with no obstructions between the shower station and the workers.
Eyewash stations must be capable of delivering a continuous flow of water to both eyes at the same time AND at a pressure that will not injure the eyes.
Activated by a single hand or foot action, then the water keeps flowing at a consistent pressure until deliberately switched off.
Fitted with filters and quick open covers to ensure debris, dust and contaminants don’t injure the eyes or body of a worker.
Tested and tagged every 12 months by a qualified technician.
REMEMBER: Emergency showers and eye wash stations must be cleaned after use. There could be chemical residues left in shower drains, activation levers, or on eye covers.
Personal Protective Equipment
Workers and emergency responders may need to wear PPE to safely deal with a chemical release, fire, or dangerous reaction. Again, the type of PPE will be indicated in the SDS and will fall into one of these three categories:
Complete coverage - PPE that completely separates the body from chemicals, protecting skin, eye and mucous membrane, as well as the respiratory system. Eg, fully encapsulated chemical protection suits.
Chemical resistant clothing - are garments and devices that are constructed from materials that won’t deteriorate or melt when contacted by chemicals. They protect the skin, face, eyes, and body from chemical splashes and spills. Eg, hooded two-piece chemical splash suits.
Basic coverage - provides simple protection for hygiene purposes or against minor irritations and infection. This type of PPE will not protect the skin or respiratory system. Eg, disposable coveralls.
ESSENTIAL: You must always check the specifications of PPE against the Safety Data Sheet or risk assessment to ensure it is suitable for the chemical hazards present.
We always recommend a risk assessment to identify problem areas and high risk zones at the job site, then evaluate the emergency measures you already have in place. Download our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace for practical instructions about using our four-step risk management methodology. Download and read it today and get your workplace one step closer to 100% chemical safety compliance.