Wendy Baker discusses the future of emergency safety shower maintenance and servicing
Protecting the health, safety and welfare of the workforce is the responsibility of every employer. Around 38% of industries, and subsequently their workforce, are exposed to hazardous chemical or biological substances. The risk of contamination and injury due to accidental spills is high. From sulphuric acid used within the production process at oil and gas refineries, to acids and alkalis used in mining, whatever the environment access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and methods of decontamination are essential.
First Line Of Defence
Emergency safety showers and eye wash equipment are the first line of defence in the event of an accidental splash or spillage and are essential to achieve compliance to crucial safety standards. The European EN15154 standard and the internationally recognised ANSI Z358.1-2014 standard stipulate requirements for the satisfactory operation of safety showers and eye washes focused on factors such as the desired water temperature and duration of operation. Regular inspection and an activation test are recommended to ensure these criteria are being met and that this lifesaving equipment is operating effectively.
Establishing a maintenance and servicing routine keeps safety showers and eye/face wash equipment dependable. Failure to do so can result in considerable fines and even imprisonment. Water temperature within the tepid range, a flow rate of 76 litres per minute and reliable operation all contribute to the functionality of safety showers and eye/face washes and need to be monitored. All this information must be recorded, and the data stored for auditing purposes.
Why The Tepid Temperature?
Adhering to the tepid water parameter of between 15-36C (according to EN15154) is crucial. The human body strives to maintain a steady internal temperature within a normal range of 32 to 38°C. When the body encounters water temperature significantly above or below its core temperature, it instinctively reacts. A higher water temperature may scald the injured person, adding temperature burns to their chemical injury. Hotter water may also cause skin to absorb more of the hazardous chemicals. The opposite reaction occurs when the body experiences extreme cold. Lower temperatures can lead to hypothermia or thermal shock. A casualty is also less likely to remove contaminated clothing and PPE if the water is too cold. Clothes containing chemical residue will prolong exposure and exacerbate burns if not removed.
Whether the water is scalding or freezing, the natural human reaction is to withdraw from the temperature extreme to protect the body. At least 15 minutes of flushing is recommended at the correct flow rate to completely rinse away most hazardous chemicals. The only way to ensure this length of time is adhered to is to control the water temperature in the tepid range.
In remote locations or expansive sites regular tests and inspections can be challenging. It requires manpower. Smart, or remote, monitoring of safety showers allows record keeping of routine tests and alerts.
The Connect smart monitoring system from Hughes Safety Showers offers 24/7 tracking of equipment. Periodical flushes are automatically logged and stored in a secure, cloud-based platform. Dashboard reporting of numerous parameters can be viewed and documented in real-time, around the clock. Most importantly, if a safety shower is activated, or non-compliant results are detected posing a risk of failure, alerts are sent to the relevant people as fast as possible, for example via SMS alerts or emails.
Real-World Case Study
A UK production facility is currently trialling the Connect system across its expansive site. With 20 pieces of safety equipment to manage, the benefits of this new solution are proving to be of value to the engineer responsible for previously carrying out the inspection tasks manually.
The production site reports that before the new solution was deployed, production operatives were required to log all results of regular testing; this is now automatically handled in the Connect smart shower interface.
Water temperatures are displayed and logged in the dashboard. The readings are also ready to download should the data ever be required for any kind of auditing purposes.
If there is a problem with the water temperature or if the showers have not been activated within the required timescale, then a notification is received advising the engineer that an investigation is needed.
Another benefit the site is enjoying is that data is logged and stored securely online, satisfying audit requirements and European and international standard compliance. There is no risk of damaged or lost paperwork.
The global pandemic has understandably seen a surge in remote working, although this is not feasible across many oil and gas sites, the physical number of people in all workplaces has reduced. Smart technology can help businesses to adapt the way they operate whilst ensuring workers remain safe.
Wendy Baker is with Hughes Safety Showers