It may be a jungle out there, but inside isn’t always a safe haven, either — especially in work settings where chemicals, gases and other hazardous materials pose potential threats to life, limbs, eyes, skin and other body parts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfatal injuries in the workplace declined only slightly between 2006 and 2007, from 4.1 million cases in 2006 to 4 million in 2007. Half were serious enough to require absences from work, job transfers or restrictions.

Providing a safe work environment is not only an employer’s moral and regulatory obligation, it’s also in a company’s best interest. Beside any liability concerns, companies that are lax about providing safe work environments risk ruining their reputations whenever the public learns about preventable workplace accidents.

Role of emergency fixtures
The effects of accidents can be diminished by installing emergency fixtures throughout critical areas where hazardous materials are used and stored.

Companies must make sure all employees are aware of the location of those fixtures and trained in their use. Employers must test emergency equipment weekly to ensure they are installed correctly, working properly and meet federal standards.

Emergency equipment should not be modified. Not only does this void the warranty, it could diminish the unit’s performance or render the equipment inoperable in an emergency, and subject your institution to fines and sanctions.

Getting started
Worksite assessment: If your workplace uses chemicals or other hazardous materials, place abundant emergency fixtures such as drench show-ers or eyewash equipment at or near every location.

Location, location, location: The ANSI Z358.1-2004 emergency equipment standard states that fixtures be installed within 10 seconds’ reach of each hazard, or within about 55 feet. Where strong acids or caustics are used, place the equipment immediately next to where the exposure could occur.

Clear identification: Emergency fixtures must be plainly visible. ANSI mandates that areas containing emergency fixtures be welllit and specifies that each fixture has a highly visible sign for quick identification. Selecting fixtures with a safety-yellow coating helps ensure they will be easily located in an emergency.

Cut the clutter: In an ideal world, emergency fixtures will never have to be used — but there’s always the risk that they will be needed, and quickly. Workers often forget or overlook emergency equipment, and may even use the areas around these fixtures to store boxes and equipment. Make sure your emergency fixtures are visible and accessible quickly when they are needed. Cut any clutter, which can be distracting.

Check water requirements: Emergency fixtures must have an adequate water supply at an appropriate pressure and temperature.
  • Water Flow Rate and Velocity — For both drench showers and eyewashes, a minimum water pressure of 30 pounds per square inch (PSI) should be supplied to the unit. It must also satisfy the ANSI minimum flow rate, which is at least 20 gallons per minute (GPM) for drench showers, 0.4 GPM for eyewashes and 3.0 GPM for eye and face washes. Actual flow rates vary by product, so consult with the equipment manufacturer to verify flow rates. Water supply to the unit must be sufficient to support a full 15-minute flow of flushing fluid.
  • Water temperature — ANSI requires that a 15-minute flow of tepid water be supplied to emergency equipment and suggests an incoming water temperature between 60°F and 100°F. Thermostatic mixing valves (tmvs) blend hot and cold water to a specific set point and are an effective solution for delivering tempered water to emergency fixtures.
Train and test: Establish a solid emergency response plan that clearly defines the different types of hazards on the job site and spells out the actions to take in an emergency.

Train everyone on what constitutes an emergency and whether a drench shower or eyewash unit is most appropriate for a particular situation. Then give each person an opportunity to test the equipment so he feels comfortable activating it.

Test the equipment regularly. To ensure that your emergency fixtures will work when they’re needed, follow ANSI guidelines for weekly and annual testing.

Selection considerations
When space is tight: If space is at a premium, look for emergency fixtures specially designed for tight areas, such as barrier-free drench shower and recessed-mounted eyewash units. Some models feature a recessed shower handle that activates the valve when pushed downward.

Privacy concerns: If an employee is splashed with a hazardous substance, he or she must quickly disrobe to completely flush all the chemicals or contaminants from the skin. In a mixed-gender environment, this may make injured workers hesitate to use a drench shower.

An effective way to address privacy is to install curtains around drench showers or combination shower and eyewash units. Some manufacturers offer vinyl laminate privacy curtains that resist chemicals and mildew. Look for a high-visibility curtain, and use a durable stainless steel curtain rail and mounting brackets for strong, corrosion-resistant support.

Outdoor settings: If you’re in the construction business, you often need portable emergency fixtures that can operate outdoors — even when temperatures plummet or where plumbed water is not available.

Manufacturers offer a variety of portable emergency equipment that can be used as a first response. Workers can get immediate first-aid relief from gravity-fed portable and stainless steel pressurized eyewashes. Each design can provide a 15-minute continuous flush.

Gravity-fed portable eyewashes are easy to fill, assemble and transport when properly secured — and they meet the ANSI Z358.1 standard. Stainless steel portable pressurized fixtures are ideal for industrial environments that require corrosion-resistance and durability. These versatile fixtures also allow for the attachment of a drench hose to rinse small areas of the body.

Finally, even the most conscientious companies can experience serious on-the- job injuries. Make sure you’re equipped to respond quickly, with the proper emergency and safety equipment in place, easily visible and ready to work in seconds.