Security & Safety

Safety showers come under spotlight

JANET DICKINSON, operations manager, Showers & Eyebaths Services*, comments on why oil, gas and utility plants need to look carefully at conditions facing their workforce when specifying their safety equipment needs.

August 2014

SAFETY showers required for effective decontamination not only have to meet the latest requirements and regulations governing health and safety but also have to be able to withstand and operate reliably in extreme environmental conditions. Get it wrong and the employer can be liable for the consequences, and the employee could be seriously injured.

With the worldwide search for oil, gas and other natural resources ever widening, global contractors are turning their attention to increasingly inhospitable environments. The extraction of such resources now encompasses countries ranging from the freezing extremes of Kazakhstan and Alaska to the heat of the Middle East.

With breakthroughs in drilling techniques, it is now possible to operate in temperatures dropping to minus 40 deg C and right up to 40 deg C. The goal posts are, therefore, moving all the time with regard to coping with potential hazards.

Fortunately for the welfare of workers, previously less stringent rules governing safety in plants have long gone. Even in the emerging markets, health and safety requirements surrounding quick, effective decontamination are getting tougher with companies having to meet strict specifications and compliance to the Ansi Z358.1-2009 international standard. Such requirements are encouraging operators and specifiers to look at the quality of the units, their operational needs and length of service. Going for cheap is not necessarily going to be economical in the long term.

So how can industry get it right for the right environment?

As a starting point, you need to look at the water supply. If you can’t connect directly into a reliable mains water supply then you require a self-contained unit. Gravity-fed tank showers are the ideal solution, providing a guaranteed supply and instant tepid water. They are not affected by water interruptions or electricity failure, making them, operationally, some of the most efficient and cost-effective safety showers on the global market. Units are built entirely of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) and stainless steel, which ensures that they are corrosion-resistant and avoid costly maintenance issues normally associated with using galvanised steel and wood-based materials.

You then need to look at the environment. In very hot countries, where the water supply feed is exposed to extreme heat, the water would be heated naturally by the sun to a dangerously high temperature. If the water remains at this temperature, it could cause or increase injury to the user. In situations where the contaminant is a burn-inducing chemical, the hot water would intensify the burns and cause the substance to be absorbed further into the skin’s pores.

At the other end of the environmental scale, to suddenly douse someone with freezing cold water would not only shock them but give them hypothermia. The pores would close immediately, trapping the contaminant therefore hampering attempts to wash it off.

In order to resolve these problems, Showers & Eyebaths Services has spent a great deal of time designing effective water cooling and heating methods which go beyond the 15-minute tepid water drench time as recommended by the Ansi Z358.1 standard as this short span is not enough when working with or near potentially harmful substances.

In hot climates, the provision of a chiller unit, coupled to a tank shower, reduces the water temperature to the recommended 20 deg C. The chiller only activates when the incoming water exceeds this temperature, and deactivates when the correct temperature has been reached. Chiller units can be fitted to any tank shower.

In cold climates, where temperatures reach down to minus 40 deg C, the water supply needs to be heated to 20 deg C. Tank showers that have the capacity and capability to provide tepid water instantly for durations in excess of the recommended 15 minutes allow for more difficult chemical substances to be washed off whilst ensuring casualties don’t suffer from thermal shock.

Water is heated by means of a thermostatically controlled 3 kW immersion heater which keeps the water to a constant ‘tepid’ temperature as recommended by Ansi Z358.1-2009.

Tankless systems can take vital seconds for the water to become tepid resulting in the initial delivery of water being cold and causing the casualty to suffer thermal shock. In addition as the flow rate is required to be 76 litres per minute, the amount of power required to heat such a flow instantaneously can be expensive to run as well as costly to install as a 110 kW power supply is required.

• UK-based Showers & Eyebaths Services manufactures and installs professional and innovative emergency safety tank showers, corrosion-resistant safety showers, eyebaths, mobile safety showers and eyebaths and shower coolers. Its products are used worldwide by the oil, chemical and water industries as well as schools, universities, hospitals and individuals who come into contact with materials and substances that can cause harm to eyes, hands and skin.

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