Housekeeping, especially at industrial worksites, is a critical component of work health and safety. This blog is about the contribution that efficient and consistent housekeeping makes to the ongoing success and compliance of your emergency decontamination facility. Decontamination equipment like safety showers and eyewash stations must be accessible to an injured worker at all times; good housekeeping ensures the area is always kept free of obstructions and incompatible materials.
Obstructing the path to the decontamination station
Housekeeping in the workplace is more than emptying rubbish bins and sweeping the floor. It’s also about having dedicated spaces for machinery and tools, as well as efficient storage for equipment, chemicals, and cleaning materials. Of course it is essential to keep aisles, walkways and emergency exits clear, but also train your workers not to clutter the areas leading to your decontamination stations.
It is a requirement of AS4775-2007 - Emergency eyewash and shower equipment that the path of travel between a worker and a shower/eyewash unit must be free of any obstructions that could inhibit the immediate use of the equipment. At the same time an obstacle could restrict visibility of the decontamination station and make it difficult to see. The station must also be highly visible according to the Standard.
In the table below we’ve listed some common items that could obstruct access to your facilities.
Common Obstacles to the emergency decontamination station
|Slip hazards that could delay access.||Spilled water, oil, chemicals, sand, grease.||Have spill kits on hand, clean up spills immediately.|
|Tripping hazards that could slow down the injured worker.||Loose flooring, extension cords wires and cables, debris.||Ensure staff and contractors keep work areas clear. Have broken items repaired immediately.|
|Vehicles and loading equipment that could block access.||Forklifts, trucks, gas bottle trolleys parked in front of the eyewash/shower station.||Have dedicated parking spaces for vehicles. Train external contractors and workers from other departments to park vehicles correctly.|
|Waste materials and debris left lying around that could impede access.||Discarded packaging materials and stretch wrap, empty containers, broken pallets.||Install waste receptacles and recycling collection points. Ensure supervisors enforce housekeeping policies.|
|Temporary workstations in the direct path of the decontamination equipment.||Maintenance contractors carrying out repair work and leaving their tools in the path of workers.||Allocate specific areas for maintenance work and provide contractors with supervision.|
|Supplier deliveries left out and not put away.||Raw materials, chemicals, cleaning agents, (on pallets or otherwise) not yet put away.||Purchase and install dedicated storage cupboards and safety cabinets so everything has a ‘home’.|
One of the main reasons obstacles start to build up and clog work areas is when no one knows what to do with the items. Maybe a supplier order arrives and the door to the chemical store is locked, or the shelves in the warehouse are full, or an untrained worker is assigned the task of putting stocks away. Supervision, purchasing procedures and staff training are all essential to efficient housekeeping.
IMPORTANT: Good housekeeping practices also ensure that light-bulbs are cleaned and replaced so that work areas remain well-lit. It is a requirement of Australian Safety Standards that areas being served by safety showers and eyewash stations are properly illuminated at all times.
Blocked emergency access points
Do you have any items lying around your workplace that are creating an obstruction between the decontamination facility and an emergency access point. Injured workers using emergency eyewash and showers may require immediate care and evacuation by paramedics, particularly if they have been exposed to highly toxic or corrosive chemicals.
Here are some thing to consider:
Is there equipment, materials, or machinery that could delay emergency services reaching the decontamination station?
Emergency responders may need to bring bulky medical equipment (eg, O2, evacuation trolleys, PPE and breathing apparatus. Could anything obstruct this?
What obstructions might interfere with a paramedic’s ability to evacuate an injured patient?
REMEMBER: Items lying around work areas can also create additional fire hazards or could increase a worker’s exposure to dusts and air-borne contaminants.
Incompatible materials in the area
Good housekeeping also ensures that incompatible substances and materials are not kept in work areas. This especially includes anything that could react dangerously with water once your emergency shower and eyewash equipment is activated. Does the work area contain:
Worn or damaged electrical fittings and sockets that could create an electrocution hazard.
Chemicals that are incompatible with water including Class 4 Dangerous Goods.
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