Risk management is a process of identifying hazards, then (if they can’t be removed) finding ways to minimise the harm they can cause. At the same time you’re monitoring any safety controls already in place to make sure they are working. This blog takes a look at how to bring a risk management approach to the installation of emergency decontamination equipment like safety showers and eyewash stations. We use one generic example to demonstrate the process.
Using a risk management methodology
Here at STOREMASTA we have developed our own risk management methodology which we use to help our clients find the most efficient (and safe) way to manage their hazardous chemicals and Dangerous Goods. It consists of four steps which continue in a perpetual circle so each hazard is continually reviewed and assessed. Let’s take a look at it in action using the example below.
SCENARIO: You’ve just been appointed HSE Manager at a food manufacturing plant and during an inspection you notice there is no safety shower or eyewash station in the laboratory. You carry out a risk assessment to determine if the purchase is necessary, and if it is — install the most effective equipment.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY the hazards
Your inspection of the area is accompanied by the lab manager and another technician, they indicate some containers of acids and bases kept on shelves near their work benches. The lab technician informs you that there is a shower in the restrooms as well as a soft-spray hose if there was a need to flush contaminants from the eyes.
STEP 2: ASSESS the risk
The next step is to assess how each of these hazards could injure your workers, taking into account the severity of the injuries.
You check the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) of the acids and bases which indicate the chemicals can cause severe skin and eye damage (including 2nd and 3rd degree burns), permanent blindness and even death. The SDS recommends the installation of a shower and eyewash unit.
You already know that AS4775-2007 - Emergency eyewash and shower equipment requires that a decontamination unit must be accessible to workers within 10 seconds, and must comply with the specifications of the Standard. The domestic shower and spray hose are not sufficient as an emergency wash station.
There are times when two lab staff are working together with the chemicals, so in a chemical emergency both may need to use a decontamination station at the same time. You also note the incompatible acids and bases stored together which could potentially react with one another. Your assessment concludes you need to install a counter-mounted eyewash between the two workbenches and with a drench hose at the sink. You’ll also install a combination safety shower and eyewash.
STEP 3: Introduce CONTROL measures
The third step determines if you’ll need to implement any additional control measures to ensure the effectiveness and safety of the installation.
Because the workers have been relying on a domestic shower in restrooms for years you realise you will need to draft up new operating procedures and provide training to each of the workers. You’ll need some additional engineering controls including a corrosive storage cabinet that will safely segregate the acids and bases in fully contained sections of the cabinet.
STEP 4: Review and SUSTAIN compliance
The final step is to implement systems so the hazards, equipment and controls are regularly reviewed.
Three months after the installation, you conduct a safety audit in the lab. The acids and bases are now being stored correctly in the under-bench corrosive cabinet but after checking the weekly inspection logs, discover that sometimes the decontamination units are not being activated on a weekly basis. Also one of the workers has started using the sink under the eye-wash unit for rinsing chemicals from glassware.
Why a risk management approach?
When planning the installation of any safety or emergency equipment, a risk management approach is always recommended because it looks at the project holistically and focuses on identifying potential problems before you spend money. Hazards and problems can be eliminated before the project even starts.
Additionally, if you use a tested risk management methodology such as STOREMASTA’s four-step process, compliance is guaranteed because each hazard and control measure is systematically identified, assessed and reviewed until compliance is achieved and sustained.
IMPORTANT: Keeping records of the risk management process demonstrates what you have done to comply with the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. It also helps when undertaking subsequent risk management activities, including reviewing your control measures. Safe Work Australia.
Now you have a better understanding of the risk management process and the steps to take when deciding on the most suitable emergency decontamination equipment for your workplace, why not download our free eBook How to select and use compliant emergency showers and eyewash equipment. It’s a definitive compliance guide, read it today by clicking on the image below: