If you are requiring your employees to take risks every day for your company, how willing are you to go to extremes for their health and safety? If your worksite is remote, or you are dealing with chemicals and contaminants that can cause injury to your workers, it is worth taking time to assess what else you can do to make their workplace safer.
Having safety showers is a given, but if your job site is exposed to extreme temperatures, how sure are you that those showers will work properly when an emergency arises? Have you gone the extra mile to protect your workers by having the right safety equipment for your type of industry, worksite and climate?
Janet Dickinson, operations manager at the UK’s Showers & Eyebaths Services, challenges the oil, gas and utility industries to seriously evaluate the unique conditions facing their workforces, so that when they order safety equipment, it will fit their needs.
The search for oil, gas and other natural resources has expanded significantly over the past decade, taking companies into more and more inhospitable environments. Their workers and equipment are exposed to temperatures ranging from far below freezing in Alaska to the stifling heat of the Middle East. Unfortunately, this creates a whole new set of factors that must be addressed—most importantly, how to keep safety equipment, such as emergency showers, operating despite drastic temperatures.
Fortunately, there are guidelines already in place that enable employers to determine which safety equipment is right for their company and for the environments that their workers operate in. The ANSI Z358.1-2014 International Standard for decontamination after exposure to chemicals on the worksite, although strict, is a blessing to companies that need to find ways to protect their workers. They can use these standards—such as a continuous water flowdelivering 20 gpm (76 lpm) of tepid water for 15 minutes—to help them select shower models that both meet ANSI requirements and fit their particular industry and worksite.
What is the best way to match your safety shower to the work environment?
Janet Dickinson has some smart guidelines. First, she says, “…you need to look at your water supply…If you can’t connect directly into a reliable mains water supply, then you require a self-contained unit.” She suggests getting a gravity-fed tank shower. This type of shower will operate even if there is a power outage or an interruption in the site’s water flow. Gravity-fed tank showers are self-contained, with a full tank of tepid water available instantly when the shower is turned on. Built with GRP and stainless steel, they are corrosion resistant, extremely durable and need little maintenance.
Her second guideline is for employers to pay attention to the environment in which they are operating. In areas where temperatures soar to 100 degrees or higher, water in pipes and shower units sitting in the sun becomes dangerously hot. Workers turning on an emergency shower after being splashed with chemicals could easily be scalded by the water coming through the shower unless it is designed to control the water temperature. She adds, “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.”
Freezing temperatures bring their own set of hazards. If a worker exposed to a contaminant were doused with ice cold water straight from the main, not only would there be the risk of thermal shock, but 15 minutes of this could cause hypothermia. “The pores would close immediately, trapping the contaminant, therefore hampering attempts to wash it off,” Janet Dickinson adds. There is another risk if the water in the showers is too cold. Workers would be tempted to cut the shower short, not staying in it for the full 15 minutes. As a result, some of the chemicals might not wash completely off. Furthermore, in outdoor showers, freezing water could turn into ice crystals and get caught on clothing. Later, when the ice melts, the chemicals can redeposit back onto the worker, defeating the whole purpose of the shower.
Alpine Technical Services (ATS) recognizes how challenging it can be for employers to maintain ANSI safety standards at their worksites. That is why every safety shower that ATS handles already meets or exceeds these requirements. All their tank showers create a minimum of 15 minutes of drench time, and some as long as 30 minutes without a refill. ATS also carries showers that provide dependable tepid water flow despite extremes in temperature, power failures or water supply issues. In hot climates, a water chiller can be attached to the shower tank, so that water coming out of the shower nozzles is consistently 68°F (20°C). The chiller has a thermostat and only activates when the incoming water is too hot. In cold climates, tank heaters can bring temperatures from as low as -40°F (-40°C) up to the required temperature. The type of heater used with these showers is a 3-kw thermostatically-controlled immersion heater, which is able to keep the water at a constant ‘tepid’ temperature. Both the chiller and the heater are energy-efficient and economical; they are well worth the investment.
Safety showers are also needed on oil and chemical tankers at sea. Typical safety showers, however, are not designed to compensate for ocean wave momentum. They are susceptible to interruptions in water flow as the ship tips away from vertical. Moreover, the sheer weight of the water supply tank, which is suspended three meters in the air, while not a problem on land, can create stresses that can literally twist and damage a standard stainless steel shower unit. This is why Showers & Eyebaths Services has designed a safety shower specifically for use on ships. This shower is a flexible plastic tank with a 316 external reinforced stainless steel framework. These materials absorb the battering forces aboard ship, even withstanding salt air without corroding. A special GRP internal baffle has also been added to even out the weight shifts and help reduce inertia.
Alpine Technical Services (ATS) offers a wide range of safety showers that meet and exceed ANSI requirements for all these unique environments. ATS is the exclusive North American distributor of products manufactured by Showers & Eyebaths Services in the UK. These showers can handle extreme temperatures, from -40°F to +120°F. This means that these showers will not freeze up in cold climates even if located outside, nor will extreme heat prevent them from working properly. ATS’s tank showers keep a constant supply of tepid water available on sites where there is no hook-up to a main water supply. Immersion heaters and water chillers are available for every tank shower.
Going to extremes for your workers is what every conscientious employer does. Alpine Technical Services is here to help make that process simpler and easier. Visit the ATS website, www.alpinetech.us, and browse the safety shower options. Here, you can connect with ATS experts who will answer your questions and match your specs with the right safety shower for your worksite.
*Showers & Eyebaths Services, located in Merseyside, UK, manufactures and installs 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.