Emergency eyewash stations and deluge showers: Are they really going to do the job?

Many of our customers have taken the time and money to install emergency eyewash stations and deluge showers to aid those workers potentially exposed to hazardous materials on their job site.

Ironically, most of those systems have never been properly inspected or audited to ensure that they are working as is required.

STACS Inc. introduces a new service. Auditing emergency eyewash stations and deluge standards based on the criteria outlined in the ANSI Z358.1-09 standard.

The data is quite clear; those who have been engulfed by corrosive materials need to be flushed with “copious” amounts of fresh, tempered water. Affected employees that have had the proper initial first aid treatment are much more likely to reduce the severity of their injuries than those that haven’t been.

Consequently, simply having a shower or eyewash system isn’t going to be sufficient.

Here’s a partial list of “real life” problems we’ve witnessed:

Accessibility:

Showers are often inaccessible due to clutter, poor housekeeping or inappropriate location selection. Consequently, access to the device is either limited or impossible.

Inspection:

In our opinion, there are 2 levels of inspection:

(i) Qualitative inspection: as a minimum, ANSI requires weekly “activation” of the devices. This simply ensures that water is flowing. In our experience, even this level of inspection isn’t taking place

(ii) Quantitative inspection: a very small percentage of our customers conduct quantitative inspection of their equipment. Quantitative measurements will include:

  • accessibility

  • “water quality”

  • flow rate

  • volume of flow

  • spray pattern

  • eye coverage

  • tempered water

Let’s examine each in a little more detail:

Accessibility: the ANSI standards requires that the equipment be located within 10 seconds of the potential exposure point.

“Water quality”: in many cases, the flowing water is rusty colored or appears to be contaminated.

Flow rate: is there enough water pressure to allow efficient flushing, or is the water pressure excessive causing potential impact injury to the eyes. The flow rate is prescribed in the standard.

Volume of flow: how much water is actually flowing and is it comfortable for the victim? This flow rate is prescribed in the standard.

Spray pattern: is the pattern of the flowing water going to be able to completely cover the body. This pattern is prescribed in the standard.

Eye & face coverage: will the eye area be in contact with the water flow and actually be flushed? Does the face need to be flushed as well? The coverage pattern is prescribed in the standard.

Temperature: our observations have indicated that one of the most under estimated variables is water temperature.

Keep in mind that proven first aid protocol requires that the affected employee must be involved in the shower or with the eye wash station for a minimum of 15 minutes.

This can present a couple of different problems.

First for our Northern customer base, the water will have to be heated in the colder seasons. If the water is too cold, the exposed employee will never be able to stand in the shower or flush their eyes for the full 15 minutes.

The opposite is true for our Southern customer base. If the water is standing in the associated piping network during the summer, the water temperature can actually scald the employee.

Consequently, simply having eyewash stations and deluge showers on site may not be meeting your legal obligations.

So if you’ve spent the money on your system, ensure that the equipment is working in a manner that will minimize the potential severity of the exposure.

In order to ensure that the equipment will function as it was designed, and that the significant financial investment you made is working for you, consider having the system audited to the current standard.

For further information on how you can have STACS Inc. assist you with this process, please contact us at:

416.540.2673 - OR - stacs@rogers.com.

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