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Despite all safety precautions, workplace accidents might be inevitable. A quick and accurate response to accidents is crucial to prevent permanent consequences. Occupations that are exposed to hazardous chemicals are particularly at risk since unwanted connections with harmful substances might occur, even with proper eye and skin protection. In workplaces where dangerous materials are utilized, emergency showers and eye-wash stations provide workers with a final level of protection.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) requires suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body to be provided in workplaces where injurious materials are handled. OHSA refers to the American National Standards Institute for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment (ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014) as a trustworthy source of instructions to protect workers who are exposed to harmful materials.
ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014 provides standardization for emergency shower and eye wash stations, covering various topics such as use, performance, installation, and maintenance. Many states in the U.S. require workplaces to comply with ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014 when designing emergency cleaning stations. With its worldwide recognition, ANSI regulations are essential functioning stations that are in line with international standards.
Common Hazardous Materials:
Various types of injurious corrosives are used in different industries. Health risks might differ depending on the type of substances involved. In this section, some of the most encountered materials will be listed alongside the workplaces that are prone to dangerous exposures.
Electric storage battery electrolytes, used in energy storage systems of various electric-powered freight carriers and other equipment, are harmful. Formaldehyde and chlorine are other injurious substances utilized by industries that manufacture, cosmetics, beauty, and cleaning products. Acids such as sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and hydronic acid can also cause damage when handled in laboratories, aluminum production, and textile facilities.
Corrosive materials may cause damage to the eyes, skin, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal systems when exposed. Irritations, rashes, and scars may occur after skin contact due to the tissue being damaged or destroyed.
Eye contact is particularly dangerous because the damage caused to receptors and nerve endings can be irreversible, leading to a partial or complete loss of eyesight. In addition, fumes generated by harmful substances are a threat as well. When breathed in, fumes corrode elements of the respiratory tract ranging from the trachea to the bronchus. Lung damage reduces oxygen saturation in the bloodstream, causing oxygen deprivation in vital organs; and in extreme cases, may lead to internal bleeding.
As stated above, unwanted contact with injurious corrosives can yield appalling consequences. Accessible emergency showers, designed in compliance with international specifications are key to eliminating the dire consequences.
The use of emergency showers is appropriate after full-body exposure to corrosives; therefore, dimensions and placement must allow full-body exposure to rinsing fluids. Emergency showers must be capable of delivering a 15-minute flush according to ANSI regulations. Rinsing fluid can be discharged from overhead, the sides, or a combination of both. The minimum overhead fluid delivery diameter must be 20 inches to ensure full-body coverage. ANSI standards recommend shower height to be between 82-96 inches and minimum spray volume to be 20 gallons/minute. Shower activation time must not exceed 1 minute, and water delivery must remain active without operator help after the initial engagement. Activation valve height must not exceed 69 inches from ground level.
Which type of emergency shower to install is another important point to consider. Emergency showers that are connected to a continuous supply of rinsing fluid are called plumbed emergency showers. ANSI recommends the use of plumbed showers in workplaces where a permanent supply of water is available. On the other hand, self-contained emergency showers are a great choice for remote working locations due to being attached to a portable fluid tank. The downside of self-contained showers is the limited water supply. As such, adequate care and attention must be taken to ensure that the fluid tank is always full.
There is a variety of equipment involved in emergency shower design. ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014 does not provide specific details on which type of equipment to use due to the different hazards and needs of various work environments. However, numerous types of equipment are used to design safety measures suited for different workplaces.
According to ANSI, rinsing fluid temperature must be between 100 °F and 16 °F. Temperatures above 100 °F may cause further irritation to the eyes or skin which has already been exposed to chemicals. Moreover, temperatures below 16 °F carry the risk of hypothermia during the 15-minute delivery time. To ensure fluid delivery at its correct temperatures, tankless water heaters and thermostatic mixing valves are used.
Tankless water heaters provide on-demand tepid water. Cold water is heated using gas or electricity. To prevent scalding, tankless heaters are equipped with safety shut-offs and can deliver cold water if disabled.
Thermostatic mixing valves, mix cold and hot water to maintain a predetermined tepid water temperature, even if the input temperatures fluctuate. The use of thermostatic mixing valves that are specific to emergency system usage is crucial since they ensure the delivery of cold water even if hot water is unavailable.
Heated storage tanks are another solution to provide tepid water. Utilizing an immersion heater, an adequate amount of water to provide 15 minutes of delivery is kept at a desirable temperature. The tank can be plumbed or self-contained. In either case, it should involve safety measures such as thermostatic mixing valves to prevent scalding.
During winter, temperatures can drop down to freezing levels. To ensure the availability of emergency shower systems, rinsing fluid must be protected against freezing. Electrical heat tracing is the most used protective measure of freeze protection. Plumbing equipment is lined with heat trace cables, covered with insulation, and then jacketed with a protective layer of ABS casing. When using electrical heat tracing, scald protection must be implemented against above limit fluid temperatures. As an alternative, an emergency system can be simply located near a heat source to prevent freezing. Whereas for self-contained systems, heated blankets are available as freeze protection.
Apart from fluid temperature, coverage is also important. In plumbed systems with multiple direction fluid delivery, nozzles are used in combination with showerheads to provide full-body coverage. There is a variety of nozzles available with various spray patterns. Correct nozzle choice is important to rinse hazardous materials completely. However, nozzles with high-pressure outputs must not be used to avoid skin damage.
After certain exposures, contaminated clothing needs to be removed immediately. Under such circumstances, modesty curtains are used to provide privacy around the emergency shower to enable the removal of clothing.
If the contaminant carries the risk of affecting a large area, alarms are useful to signal nearby workers to vacate the environment.
Handling corrosives are dangerous, and common preventative measures might not be enough to avoid accidents. Emergency cleaning systems must be available in risky environments as another layer of protection since a quick response is critical to prevent long-lasting ramifications. Finally, compliance with international guidelines and correct use of equipment is crucial to ensure accessible emergency systems.