Workplaces are dynamic spaces and constantly evolving and expanding. But a constantly changing environment has compliance implications particularly as it relates to safety controls and emergency equipment like safety showers and eyewash stations. This blog looks at some events in the workplace that could trigger the need for new (or expanded) emergency decontamination facilities.
IMPORTANT: A risk assessment should be done when changes at the workplace occur that may impact on the effectiveness of control measures. Safe Work Australia.
A change to work areas and processes
If you start using different chemicals, production output increases, or you expand your workforce you will need to review the capacity of your decontamination stations. We recommend conducting a risk assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of your existing equipment whenever:
New hazardous substances are introduced
Every time you introduce new chemicals and Dangerous Goods into the workplace you need to evaluate your existing decontamination equipment. Check the hazard class and first aid recommendations on the Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Do you now need both a shower and an eyewash?
Production output increases
As production output increases will this increase the quantities of hazardous chemicals and Dangerous Goods you keep onsite? Are workers exposed to chemicals for longer periods of time? Are there now more work areas where staff could be affected by hazardous materials?
If the number of onsite workers and contracts increases you may need to install additional eyewash and shower units. Is it possible that two or more workers need to use a safety shower or eyewash at the same time.
Renovations and construction work
The effectiveness of your emergency shower and eyewash stations may be impacted both during and after renovations or construction work. While the work is being undertaken your existing decontamination facilities may be obstructed by building materials and construction work. Then once the work is complete the layout of work areas may have changed, the existing shower may no longer be accessible to all employees and a second unit may be required.
Equipment and machinery installation
Installing new equipment and machinery can introduce new risks and hazards. Consider how the hazardous chemicals in the area could react with the equipment. Also evaluate if this change could increase the possibility of a worker being exposed to dusts and flying particles, splashed or immersed in liquid chemicals, or burned in a fire.
NOTE: The installation of additional equipment and machinery into a work area can introduce heat, sparks, and static electricity. Any of these could increases the risk of fire and explosions and trigger the need for emergency decontamination equipment.
Independent audits and inspections
Safety audits and inspections by qualified Dangerous Goods consultants can uncover new hazards and expose the limitations of your existing decontamination equipment. Examples include:
Workers decanting or transferring fuel and hazardous chemicals outdoors and away from the indoor emergency eyewash and shower (may require outdoor installation).
A single combination drench shower and eyewash to support 10 laboratory workers (insufficient equipment).
Hand held drench hose being used as a safety shower or eyewash (inadequate equipment).
Workers using a domestic shower in restrooms (non-compliant equipment).
Self-contained eyewash with 15 minute flushing capacity to support lab workers who use both acids and bases (insufficient flushing time, may require plumbed eyewash).
Independent consultants and safety auditors who specialise in Dangerous Goods draw on their working knowledge of hazardous chemicals across a range of industries, and can help you appraise the adequacy of your existing (or proposed) installations.
An accident, incident, or near miss occurs
Sometimes despite your best efforts, an accident, incident, or near miss will still occur — use this as an opportunity to conduct proper investigations and determine the cause of the incident. Perhaps you have underestimated the potency of the chemicals, or overlooked small groups of isolated workers. Here are some examples that might indicate inefficiencies in your decontamination equipment:
- Example 1: An explosion causes a vat of chemicals on a mezzanine floor to overturn and spill onto a worker below. The safety shower is located on the upper floor next to the vat.
- Example 2: A loose transfer coupling disconnects a fuel hose, two workers are sprayed with corrosive chemicals. There is only one safety shower, so one worker uses the shower while the other uses a drench hose.
- Example 3: A cleaner using corrosive cleaner/degreaser from a hand-pump unit receives 2nd degree burns to their hand when the chemicals leaked from the applicator. There was no available safety shower nearby so he used an outdoor garden hose.
If you’re still not sure whether you need a safety shower, eyewash station or supplementary equipment like drench hoses to support your existing installation, why not download our free eBook How to select and use compliant emergency showers and eyewash equipment. It’s the definitive compliance guide for installing emergency decontamination equipment in Australia.