You can’t handle hazardous materials without the right tools but managers need to ensure the people handling them are properly trained to do the job, advises Paul Thorn.
If you work with hazardous substances, then emergency decontamination equipment is essential - but all the safety equipment in the world won’t amount to much if your staff aren’t adequately trained on how to use it.
Proper training can help not only to reduce time off from time off from injury - it can even save lives. Before demonstrating the best ways to train your staff for decontamination incidents, let’s look at the equipment you need.
When it comes to chemical decontamination, the two most important items of safety equipment are eye wash fountains and drench.
These are not designed to prevent chemical spills from happening; rather, they are intended to minimise the damage that occurs as a result. When used in the correct manner, they can reduce the risk of disfigurement, disability, and even death.
Eye wash stations comprise a pair of spray nozzles and a bowl for drainage. Once the unit is activated, the nozzles discharge a stream of water directly into the eyes of the user, thereby flushing out foreign material and mitigating injury.
Drench showers and eye wash stations are all well and good - but they won’t be of much use if your staff don’t know how to use them.
You should give training to new employees as soon as they join your workforce - this can be an excellent opportunity to retrain the rest of your staff. You should also provide training to all employees whenever you install a new item of safety equipment.
Training can help not only to reduce time off from injury - it can even save lives.
Paul Thorn, MD, Safety Eyewash
When training your staff, first show them where the safety equipment is located, then demonstrate the route they would take to reach it. According to ANSI regulations, the route should be free from obstacles and no more than a ten-second walk away from the danger area.
If you’re training your workforce on the use of an emergency eye wash station, it can be helpful to ask one team member to put on a blindfold before navigating their way to the eye wash unit, as a way of mimicking an emergency scenario where the user’s eyesight has been impaired.
Another useful exercise involves asking one employee to lie down close to a hazardous area and yell for help; one or two more employees can then assist their colleague to the emergency decontamination equipment.
Finally, demonstrate to your employees how the emergency equipment is activated and used, referring to the manufacturer’s instructions. Whenever you purchase a new item of safety equipment, you should put the instructions in a safe place so that you can refer back to them for training purposes.
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure - and while drench showers and eye wash stations can help mitigate the impact of contamination, you should ultimately aim to foster a workplace-wide safety culture that prevents such incidents from happening in the first place.
Paul Thorn is managing director of Safety Eyewash