Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Safety Showers and Eyewash Stations - The Unsung Heros of the Plant Floor

Safety showers
Hughes Safety Shower
Safety showers and eyewash stations might just be the most forgotten, but most important piece of equipment on the factory floor. They can save someone's life, or greatly reduce the amount of injury resulting from a spill or splash of hazardous material.  Plant managers and safety officers must comply with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandates for safety showers and wash stations with the help of ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard Z358.1-2009.

This standard requires that all flushing equipment must be in easy to find areas, and accessible in 10 seconds (The Ten Second Rule). This equipment must be installed in well-lit areas and have an established flow rate of 0.4 gallons per minute at 30 PSI for eyewash stations and 20 gallons per minute at 30 PSI for drenching showers.

The ability to be used by personal with restricted mobility is also required. Easy to operate handles with stay-open valves are examples of design features that allow easy use.

Once installed, ANSI requires regular testing. This requirement assures proper operation or the need for maintenance.

The water supply for the wash stations and safety showers must not be too cold or too hot. The water must be maintained at a comfortable temperature. A temperature of between 60 to 100 deg. F. is recommended and must be maintainable for 15 minutes. This will assure the person doesn’t just run in and run out because of the shock of too hot to too cold water. The use of steam control valves (if your plant has steam available) in tandem with heat exchangers and mixing valves provide the heat source, and the regulation needed to keep temperatures comfortable. If steam is not available, then the use of electric or gas industrial strength water heaters are used. Water in the hot water heater is usually kept at around 130 deg. F. and the use of a mixing valve with cold water delivers the proper temperature.

Not all safety showers and eyewash systems are installed inside a plant. When installed outside, the possibility of freezing must be considered. In these situations, insulation and thermostatically controlled heat tracing (steam or electric) must be used.

Safety showers are very important anywhere there is risk of spilling or splashing corrosive or irritating materials. Using a simple cold water supply with a standard valve isn’t enough. A lot of thought and experience went in to creating the ANSI standard, and safety shower/eyewash manufacturers go to great lengths to engineer systems that reduce injury and speed up access. Make sure your plant provides this critical safety equipment wherever it's required in your plant.

Here is an excellent PDF from Texas A&M outlining guidelines for safety showers and eyewash stations.