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Product selection guide for water utility sites

Nature of the risk

The first thing to do is to determine exactly the nature of the risk. A good rule is to imagine the worst kind of accident possible and then plan a sufficient response to that. This will determine the type of showers and eye baths that need to be deployed. If the, for example, the worst case scenario is a small spill of acid to the face then perhaps eye baths would be sufficient. If, on the other hand, the quantities of dangerous material being handled are larger and could result in significant coverage of the body then clearly full body showers would be needed.

The type of material being handled will also have a strong bearing on the showers deployed. For example very corrosive materials will need extremely fast flushing to avoid serious harm so higher flow rate shower may be required. Similarly some chemical reactions can actually be speeded up by warm water so this may have a baring on whether heated showers are deployed.

Site layout

Part of the obligations of an employer are to ensure that the safety shower is accessible when needed. Obviously the quicker a victim of an accident can access first aid equipment the lower the chance of serious injury. General good practice is to have the equipment no more than 10 seconds walk away and on the same level as the hazard, this translates to about 16 meters. The ANSI Z358.1-2004 /2009 American standards specify the 10 seconds walk criteria, European standards are less specific on this matter but the guidance given in the American standards, if followed, would cover most obligations of accessibility. Further to this one must remember that shower equipment should be on the same level as the hazard. It is likely that a person injured and seeking a safety shower may find negotiating ladders or stair cases difficult. If a shower is located on a different level then it may expose a company to a litigation risk in the event of an injury as the claim could be made that the equipment was no accessible in a timely fashion. 

Environmental considerations

The environment in which the shower is deployed also needs to be considered carefully when selecting the correct shower.

Water treatment sites tend to be exposed to the elements with most showers being situated out doors. This means that in the UK all such shower must be frost protected. As shower that fails to work when needed because it is frozen is treated the same as if the shower were not present at all. All the relevant standards stipulate that adequate frost protection must be deployed.

It is also strongly advisable to ensure the water supply itself is tepid. Frost protected showers are not heated they simply keep the water above freezing point. If an accident occurs on a cold winters day then it is extremely unlikely that any person will remain under a cold shower for the advised 15 minutes. Indeed the risk of hypothermia probably mitigates the benefits of the shower. The ANSI standards thus insist on a tepid water supply in such situations. The EN standards are less strong in their wording and a tepid supply is merely "advised" for cold environments. SSP's always advise on heated showers if they are being used outdoors in the UK.

Exposure to the elements

Most safety showers deployed at water utility sites will be outside. This means they will be exposed to heat in the summer months and cold, rain and snow in the winter months. Consideration should be given to how well the unit will fare over time given this exposure. Whilst many modern plastics are tough and UV resistant SSP find that they do not stand up to exposure to UK weather well over time. For this reason our tank showers are of an all stainless steel design. This means both the frame and the tank itself are all made from high quality stainless steel. The all stainless design of our showers means they will tend to last longer than cheaper plastic models and so represent better value for money over time. 
In order to be effective first aid equipment safety showers need to be visible. Careful consideration needs to be given to the following factors:

1- An person suffering from a chemical burn may have impaired vision.
2- In the event of a disaster could clouds of smoke, dust or gas impeded visibility?
3- In outdoors setting could weather such as fog or night time working impeded visibility?
4- Could normal operating processes restrict visibility?

A simple "high vis" sign may not be enough in many circumstances to ensure the shower is visible. A variety of position lighting options are available for showers to mitigate this problem.
Safety showers should be inspected and checked they that they are in good working order every 3-6 months. They need to be checked that they operate as specified so flow rate readings may need to be take as well as checks for signs of wear and whether alarms, lights and sirens work. These checks can be carried out internally or we can provide an inspection / maintenance contract for all our showers and eye baths. 

General good practice is that the shower is on the same level as the hazard it is guarding against. If an injured work has to climb or descend stair of ladders then it would be difficult to argue that a reasonable provision of safety equipment has been met. Furthermore access to wheel chair users should also be considered.

Psychological considerations

The psychology of safety is often over looked. One of the biggest battles health and safety professionals have is trying to overcome human beings propensity to act in illogical ways. Most of us are prone to taking unnecessary risks at work for a variety of reasons. Changing this risky behaviour is actually one of the main challenges faced when trying to make the work place safe. After all even a perfect health and safety plan with all the correct procedures and equipment in place is rendered useless if workers don't follow it. 

page 59 gif showerModifying human behaviour is an interesting and broad topic in psychology and far beyond the scope of our work at the Safety Shower People. That being said we have given consideration to the psychology of safety in many of our products. There are features on some of our products that can help overcome the psychological barriers that prevent the correct use of our eye baths and showers.

Panelled Showers

The social taboo about public nudity should not be ignored. Good practice in the event of a chemical splash or spill is to remove all clothing even under garments. But getting naked in front of ones work mates is a significant psychological deterrent, couple this with the fact that the shower may sound a siren and flash a light when operated and we have a very strong mental barrier to following the correct procedure. Effectively we have a situation where a worker needs to strip naked in front of their work colleagues and then a big neon sign and a siren shouts "look at me!".  

A simple way of reducing this deterrent is to install side panels and a door on the shower. Showering in private is far less embarrassing and so a worker is more likely to follow the correct procedure. Now clearly if someone is in agony from a serious caustic spill or burn then a bit of embarrassment will be the least of their worries but with smaller less dramatic spills there is a real danger that these social taboos will hinder the correct usage of safety showers. Side panels make the correct use more likely.

For more details on the psychology of safety shower please click and down load the article linked in the icon.