Power outages and safety showers: Be prepared
How can a facility plan ahead for extreme weather events to keep its safety showers and eyewash stations supplied and functional?
Responding is Alexis Rose, industrial product manager, ThermOmega Tech, Warminster, PA.
Extreme weather events can be unpredictable at times, leaving businesses with little time to prepare for high winds, record precipitation and a host of other complications. Keeping employees safe during high-risk weather events is crucial but can quickly become difficult should a power interruption cut off tepid water supplies to emergency safety showers and face/eyewash stations in part or all of a facility.
To avoid the risk of safety stations being rendered useless during a weather event because of a partial or total power outage, facilities should consider implementing a tepid water supply system that isn’t reliant on electricity and instead operates mechanically.
Recent innovations in the industrial safety sector have resulted in tepid water supply systems that are mechanically operated. These systems use mixing valves to combine a facility’s current supply of steam or hot and cold water to produce an OSHA-compliant stream of tepid water. Once the emergency safety shower or face/eyewash station is activated, the resulting pressure drop opens steam and cold-water supply control valves to establish flow and combine the steam and cold water before delivering it to the connected safety station. These tepid water supply systems work quickly and have over-temperature settings for increased employee safety.
For facilities that don’t have reliable steam or hot-water supplies on hand, electric water heaters are available with thermostatically controlled mixing valves to supply tepid water to emergency drench systems. These systems electrically heat cold water and store it at elevated temperatures inside of a heavily insulated tank. Once the connected safety station is activated, the resulting pressure drop pulls the preheated water from the tank and mixes it with cold water before delivering the tepid water through the point-of-use fixture. The mixing valve is completely mechanical, with triple-redundant safety controls to protect personnel from being scalded, even if power is lost.
Complications from flooding are also less of a danger when using mechanically operated tepid water delivery systems because these systems don’t rely on or draw from an electrical source to operate. There’s no risk of frayed wires or an electrical charge turning an inconvenience into a dangerous or potentially even deadly situation. It also avoids hefty installation costs associated with running long electrical lines through a facility.
By implementing a partially or fully mechanically operated tepid water delivery system, facilities are prepared for any extreme weather event that may render the local power grid inert for hours or even days at a time. Although many facilities have backup generators on hand, the crucial time it takes to switch between the two sources could be enough for a disaster to arise, if not adequately planned for ahead of time.
With the changing climate causing extreme weather events to occur more frequently and in places often unprepared for them, facilities should turn to tepid water supply systems that will keep their employees protected, no matter when extreme weather strikes.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.