Training Workers to use emergency decontamination equipment

Feb 17, 2020 Posted by Walter Ingles

Here at STOREMASTA, we visit workplaces all over Australia, NZ and South East Asia. And we regularly see fully compliant safety cabinets, chemical stores, and emergency decontamination equipment fall into disrepair and non-compliance because of poor housekeeping practices. This blog is about how to train your managers and staff to use and take care of the equipment that could one day save their life.


REMEMBER: Buying and installing emergency equipment is only one step in the safety process, effective staff training and ongoing supervision is just as critical.

Awareness training

Your training and induction program should begin with awareness training that focuses on identifying and locating the safety showers and eyewash facilities. Your induction program might give workers an overall site plan which indicates the location of each decontamination station, but then narrows down into their individual work areas.

Overall your awareness training will ensure that your workers:

  • Understand the hazardous materials that could cause them injuries.

  • Can quickly locate the emergency decontamination equipment in their work area.

  • Know what to do if they are injured by hazardous materials, fire, or chemical burns.

  • Understand the different types of equipment and how to use it correctly (eyewash, showers, drench hoses, hand-held face wash)

  • Are aware of other hazards in the area that could affect their safety.


Emergency response training

Emergency response training demonstrates to workers the exact procedures to follow if they (or co-workers) are exposed to hazardous materials or receive chemical burns. This training is most effective in one-on-one sessions where workers have the opportunity to practice using the equipment and following the full emergency procedure. The learning is then reinforced through  simulated emergencies and drill responses

The training program should cover at a minimum:

  • Immediate responses: locating decontamination equipment, alerting co-workers, activating shower/eyewash units, panic alarms, removing clothing and contact lenses.

  • Treatment procedures: flushing times, holding eyes open with fingers, having co-workers put up privacy shields.

  • Avoiding cross-contamination: positioning eyes and body, protecting first aiders, restricting access to the accident scene.

  • Emergency responders: calling emergency services, granting access to ambulances and paramedics.

  • Post care clean-up:  disposal of contaminated clothing and waste water, cleaning and testing the decontamination units.

  • Possible interferences: not removing clothing, delaying response times, not staying in the shower long enough, using drench hoses incorrectly, trying to use a domestic hose instead of the eyewash, unconscious patients, bystanders.

STOREMASTA floor mounted eyewash station side view

Maintenance and weekly testing

What happens if a worker is sprayed with caustic liquid and the safety shower won’t work? It’s a requirement of Australian Safety Standards that plumbed emergency eyewash and safety showers are activated and tested at least once a week. But this won’t happen unless you train your managers and line supervisors, then put a system in place to make sure it’s always carried out.

An activation test is more than turning on a tap and seeing if water comes out. You’ll be visually appraising each unit and ensuring the area is free of obstructions and potential hazards. We recommend the following  testing considerations:

  • Inspect pipework, shower-heads and connections ensuring there are no leaks, cracks, or structural damage.

  • (Eyewash units) Check nozzle covers are clean and in position.

  • Activate the unit and make sure paddle levers or pull handles work properly and water begins to flow immediately.

  • (Eyewash units) Verify nozzle covers are automatically released and water flows from both nozzles.

  • Evaluate the water pressure (in-line with manufacturer’s instructions) and the flow continues until manually shut down.

  • Keep the water flowing long enough to clear the lines of any stagnant water, sediment and  blockages.

  • (Eyewash units) Check the nozzle covers return to their correct resting position once the water stops.

  • Make sure water drains away correctly and bowls/grates are clean.

  • Take a final check of the area: warning signs are in place, lights are working and area is well lit, supplementary equipment is in place (PPE, neutralisers, privacy screens, SDSs).

  • Document the inspection, recording the date and name/s of the work team.

REMEMBER: You’ll need to ensure that enough workers/supervisors are trained to carry out the test, so the units are verified at least once a week.


Housekeeping and proper use

REAL EXAMPLE: A lab worker in the US required emergency care after using an eyewash facility that had been contaminated. A co-worker had been using the eyewash taps to clean lab glassware and stainless steel chemical trays, and the eye nozzles had become covered with cleaning agents.

Train your workers and contractors properly, then provide enough supervision so they keep the emergency decontamination equipment clean and don’t misuse it. Your weekly inspections should have triggers and corrective actions in place if staff are identified to be:

  • Parking forklifts or vehicles (even temporarily) in the path of an eyewash/shower unit and workers.

  • Obstructing the area with pallets, warehouse supplies, stationery, or personal items.

  • Using showers or eyewash taps to wash hands, lunch containers, clothing, PPE, or work equipment.

  • Bringing potentially hazardous materials into the area (eg, Class 4 Dangerous Goods).

REMEMBER: Even the most efficient and reliable worker will sometimes be tempted to use an eyewash or safety shower for washing hands and equipment if they have to walk distances to access hand washing and cleaning bays. Position utility stations in practical areas that make it easy for workers to do the right thing.

STOREMASTA stainless steel combination eyewash safety shower unit openNext steps

For more information about selecting, installing, using, and maintaining an emergency eyewash and shower we’ve created this free eBook -- How to select and use compliant emergency showers and eyewash equipment — you can download it right away. It’s a detailed compliance guide for busy HSE Managers or line supervisors with WHS responsibilities. Download and 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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