EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT

February 1, 2008
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Test your emergency equipment frequently to ensure it’s ready when someone needs it.


Installation and testing of emergency drenching equipment according to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requirements can offer workers peace of mind while on the job. Yet, installing the right emergency solutions according to the ANSI standard does not guarantee workers will use the fixtures in an emergency.

Six critical but often overlooked steps — training, accessibility, visibility, functionality, privacy and signaling for assistance — help ensure drench showers and eyewash units are ready to use and will be operated by injured workers (and those trying to help them) when necessary.

1. Train on proper use
If workers cannot quickly find and operate the nearest emergency equipment, a simple injury can become severe or, even worse, deadly. For example, if not properly trained on emergency protocol, a worker with a serious eye contamination may run to the restroom to rinse out the affected eye. Unfortunately, in the time it could take to reach the nearest restroom, it may be too late — the result could be permanent eye damage. Also, the flow of water from standard restroom fixtures is insufficient to adequately wash contaminants from the injured worker.

This unfortunate scenario is avoidable. First, have a solid emergency response plan in place. Clearly define the different types of hazards on the jobsite and indicate the actions to be taken in the event of an emergency. Next, all employees must be trained on what constitutes an emergency and whether a drench shower or eyewash unit is most appropriate for a particular situation. Most importantly, each person should have an opportunity to test the equipment so he or she feels comfortable activating it.

2. Install within reach
To ensure equipment is used in an emergency, it must be located near potential hazards. The ANSI Z358.1-2004 emergency standard requires emergency equipment be placed within 10 seconds reach of any hazard. As a guideline for placement, an average person can cover about 55 feet in 10 seconds.

To minimize injuries, remove all clutter or obstacles between the hazard and emergency equipment. In addition, fixtures should be on the same level as the hazard. Remember, physically disabled or injured workers cannot go up or down stairs to reach a fixture. For hazards involving a strong caustic or acid, the drench shower or eyewash should be placed immediately adjacent to the hazard.

In remote locations without plumbed emergency equipment, such as construction sites, portable units should be supplied. Gravity-fed eyewashes are a good solution — specify units that are designed for easy transportation and that can be quickly refilled.

3. Increase visibility
Location is important, but the unit must also be placed in a well-lighted area and have a visible sign for quick identification. Although no specific color is designated for emergency drench showers or eyewashes in either ANSI Z358.1-2004 or the ANSI Z535.1-2002 American National Standard for Safety Color Code, choose a bright yellow color easily found in an emergency. Yellow is the most visible color and is the first color the human eye notices, research suggests.

4. Keep clean and in working order
For optimal performance during an eye emergency, eyewash units must flush contaminants without exposing the infected eye to dust or other contaminants. One of the easiest ways to be sure equipment is in good working order is to conduct the ANSI required weekly and annual testing procedures. Routine testing provides an opportunity to inspect units for corrosion and remove any debris that could pose a problem.

Eyewash dust covers are beneficial for industrial applications where contaminants fill the air. In some cases, dust covers can be retrofitted to current equipment. The dust cover swings back and out of the way when the push handle is activated.

Bottled eyewashes are a common oversight when it comes to emergency preparedness. Even if a bottle is sealed, the solution may not be sterile if it’s past the manufacturer’s expiration date. Keep the tops of bottles clean and ready for use.

5. Protect users’ privacy
Privacy can be a major factor for a worker choosing not to use an emergency drench shower in an emergency. To be effective, users must disrobe completely to flush contaminants from their skin. In a mixed-gender environment, it is easy to understand why this would be a concern.

Installing privacy curtains around drench showers or combination shower and eyewash units is an easy and effective way to address the privacy issue. High-visibility yellow vinyl laminate privacy curtains that are chemical and mildew resistant are good for industrial applications. A durable stainless steel curtain rail and mounting brackets can provide strong, corrosion-resistant support.

6. Sound the alarm
To ensure emergency equipment is not only used — but used properly in the event of an emergency — assist users in summoning help from others. An alarm system can be triggered as soon as an emergency fixture is activated. Injured persons can continue flushing without the added worry of calling for help. An added benefit of an alarm system is that it deters vandals from tampering with the emergency equipment.

These are a few easy ways to put workers’ safety first by making sure emergency equipment is used in a crisis situation. Check with the manufacturer of your emergency fixtures to determine if there are any other accessories or solutions that will help keep the equipment ready to use in case of an emergency. You hope you’ll never need an emergency fixture, but proper training, accessibility, visibility, privacy, functionality and signaling for help can minimize injuries and ensure emergency preparedness.

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