How to handle emergencies in harsh work environments
August 5, 2009
Emergencies are unforeseen and unwelcome events. Coping with any crisis requires planning and preparedness to ensure a quick response. But when an emergency occurs in harsh or difficult surroundings, it may require unconventional planning and extraordinary preparedness to protect workers and provide an ANSI Z358.1 compliant flush.
A challenging work environment looks quite different across industries; it may include remote industrial operations, flexible manufacturing facilities or locations that require intrinsically safe electrical systems. These same work environments are often located in some of the most extreme climates. Still, workers must be provided the protection afforded to them by OSHA and ANSI Z358.1, a full 15-minute continuous warm full body and eye flush.
To protect workers, drench shower and eyewash manufacturers have developed combination units and tepid water systems to address these extreme applications. Unique products have been developed for outdoor and indoor locations to address specific challenges in each environment.
Safety managers of outdoor facilities who are faced with remote industrial operations and no practical way to provide tempered water are often confused about how to achieve compliance to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.151 to provide “suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body….” Enclosed safety showers are often the best solution to address the challenges faced when attempting to install compliant combination units in an extreme environment.
Choosing your shower
When evaluating which enclosed outdoor safety system is most appropriate for the environment, choose one that will be durable enough to withstand environmental conditions while offering key components as part of a standard package. Quality is of paramount importance because the shower is a premium addition to any safety arsenal and is capable of outlasting a traditional standard safety shower when properly maintained.
Before buying, be sure to examine technical data sheets, installation instructions, review a frequently asked questions guide, if available, and pre-installation instructions to be sure the site can accommodate the system requirements of the enclosure. It’s particularly important to ensure that the materials used are of strong integrity and durability.
The exterior of premium outdoor enclosures and tempering systems are often protected by 100 percent vacuum-formed fiberglass with a UV gel-coat. They protect to temperatures that dip below -50ºF (-45ºC) and are assembled using corrosion-resistant materials. Enclosures may be skid loaded and often feature lifting eyes on the roof that are anchored through to the base of the enclosure. Often enclosures feature a fire and/or flame spread rating, and are certified by a third party as an electrical system. Some are even built to withstand seismic activity. In the event of an emergency, a strobe light and horn are activated on the exterior of the enclosure. Plus, a remote set of contacts is capable of being wired in to a central control center to alert first responders.
Similarly, indoor enclosed safety showers are also typically protected by 100 percent vacuum-formed fiberglass for corrosion resistance, and are assembled using corrosion-resistant materials. The central benefits of an indoor enclosed shower system over traditional systems include privacy, shower portability and a turn-key tepid water system.
The interior of outdoor or indoor showers ship with an auxiliary drench hose and freeze protection valve to bleed off near freezing water during the winter months, should the power to the enclosure fail. Outdoor models include a scald protection valve to bleed off water during hot summer months. Standard outdoor booths include a convection heater inside the enclosure that continuously warms the interior for an injured worker who needs to disrobe.
Most manufacturers offer the customer a variety of ways of providing tepid water, defined in ANSI Z358.1-2004 Appendix B6 as 60-100ºF (15.5-37.7ºC). Tempering systems adjacent to enclosed showers can include hot water tanks used in conjunction with an emergency thermostatic mixing valve, a steam heat exchanger or an electric tankless water heater. Each tempering option caters to different site conditions. Hot water tanks typically offer a single 15-minute flush and then require recovery time before delivering the next tepid shower. Steam heat exchangers, however, can provide a limitless supply of tepid water as long as there is ample cold water supplied, but require steam on-site. Often a preferred solution is an electric tankless water heater that provides a limitless supply of tepid water with no recovery period.
When selecting an electric tankless water heater, be sure to select a product that has a low pressure drop (10-12 psi) to ease supply demands with respect to line pressure. Further, precise temperature control and thermal safety features are key to ensuring water is always below the 100ºF maximum requirement for the ANSI Z358.1 standard. Industrial grade watertight enclosures and sheathed, low watt-density heating elements protect internal components and provide longer element life, increasing operational reliability.
Dangerous working conditions are present in many of the world’s leading yet volatile industries. When searching for a flexible, engineered solution for a tough industrial environment, consider enclosed safety showers as a compliant solution.