Trends in ... eyewashes and showers
Properly working, easily accessible emergency eyewashes and showers are vital to on-the-job safety. That’s because “the first 10 to 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance, especially a corrosive substance, are critical,” the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety states. “Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury.”
Here, four industry insiders share their thoughts on new technology in this field, misuse and how workers can best stay safe.
Eric Clark, director of Haws services for Sparks, NV-based Haws Corp., talked about moving toward on-demand, instantaneous hot water heating and its environmental aspect. “If one considers the number of times an emergency shower or eyewash is used in the average safety-conscious plant operation versus the cost of heating and recirculating hot water 24/7 in a traditional system, the ‘green’ benefits of on-demand water heating become very clear,” Clark said. “Your electrical demand, even factoring in the infrequent use of on-demand power consumption, is significantly lower.”
Dr. Alan H. Hall, Azle and Springtown, TX-based Toxicology Consulting and Medical Translating Services, discussed a new technology that involves changing flushing fluid to an amphoteric active flushing rather than using tap water, saline solution or buffered phosphate solutions.
“This type of flushing fluid is currently utilized instead of water in more than 60 countries worldwide,” Hall said, and “has demonstrated better effectiveness than water with immediate (less than 1 minute post exposure) use, but also has effectiveness in reducing the extent of chemical eye/skin injury when utilized in the emergency department or in the intensive care unit or burn center, up to a number of hours after the initial exposure.”
He added that the flushing fluid is water-based, so none of the benefits of water flushing, such as dilution and rinsing, is lost. “The volumes required and the time for usage are much shorter, and available products are mostly in small volumes and portable such that they can be placed with the worker or immediately available.”
The two main culprits of emergency shower misuse are not providing ANSI-required tepid water and not performing weekly test activations, said Ryan Pfund, senior product manager for Menomonee Falls, WI-based Bradley Corp. “It’s important to check that equipment is placed in accordance with the ANSI/ISEA standard, works properly with no missing parts, has lines flushed regularly, is protected against freezing, and uses heated tepid fluid between 60-100° F or 16-38° C,” Pfund said. He also pointed out that a dated checklist for inspections helps with follow-through, as well as educating workers on the location and operation of fixtures to reinforce proper use.
Neglecting the upkeep of emergency equipment can result in dirty equipment that doesn’t work properly, Clark said. To rectify this, he recommends adhering to the ISEA/ANSI Z358.1 – 2014 standards for emergency equipment. This “is a guideline for how the equipment should deliver first aid and requires weekly maintenance on the equipment to ensure water to the heads of the device so that it is kept in good working order and emergency ready,” Clark said.
Rebecca Madden, marketing manager for ThermOmegaTech, based in Warminster, PA, noted that a common misconception about tepid water for emergency shower and eyewash equipment is that “merely heat tracing water supply lines and shower piping eliminates the need for a proper tepid water delivery system.”
Madden said this is incorrect. “This setup would not provide sufficient [gallons per minute] flow and may result in water temperature spikes or drops that could make it difficult for the user to stay under the shower spray for the required 15 minutes,” she said. To prevent this, Madden points to new technology on the market that continuously provides up to 25 GPM flow at an OSHA-approved 85° F.
Words of wisdom
Pfund highlighted the importance of training, and noted that workers with minimal training often tend to have a “fight or flight” response when exposed to a dangerous substance. “It’s a natural instinct to run away from injury,” he said. “Regular training will instill correct actions to take upon contamination of the eyes, face and/or body.”
Added Madden, “Above all else, employees want to feel safe. Employees whose factories install new, state-of-the-art technology can trust that when they activate their face/eyewash or safety shower, they will have the right temperature water for the right duration, even if there is a power failure.”
Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association
Coming next month:
- Head/face protection