There was an Accident at Work, But I'm OK'
It helps to look at these incidents from the victim's perspective.
- By Casey Hayes
- Dec 01, 2006
NO one plans to be involved in an industrial accident, but it happens. In Al's
case, it was simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time.
While returning to his work area from the tool crib, a drum of caustic material
slipped off a forklift. The drum hit the side of an inventory rack and split
open. Al was splashed across his left side, soaking his clothing from head to
toe. A significant amount of the hazardous material struck his exposed face and
the sometimes matter-of-fact world of OSHA and ANSI requirements, this would be
a cut-and-dried situation. There should be a combination eye/face wash and
drench shower within 10 seconds of the location of the accident, on the same
level, without obstacles in the pathway, etc. Most operations of significant
size have a solid handle on the specifics of the regulatory requirements for
dealing with Al's incident. But what about the most important part of all? What
about Al? What about his state of mind and psychological condition, from the
instant the splash contacted him forward? ANSI doesn't mandate compassion and
care about the comfort and well-being of the victim from the first moment on.
They're the unwritten responsibility of Al's employer and its associated
first step in attending to the personal needs of accident victims is
recognizing those needs. Most of the immediate needs are common sense. Accident
victims have suffered a trauma, which brings the possibility of pain, nervous
agitation, and accompanying shock, along with possible embarrassment over the
accident's having occurred at all. Thus, proper planning becomes a function of
answering those needs and alleviating the concerns as much as possible.
of the proper equipment, reasonable placement, and training will go a long way
toward mitigating victim concerns. Having the proper procedures in place to
provide immediate first aid assistance, while also reassuring and comforting
the victim, is equally critical. And as with all areas of safety and emergency
response, training on the risks and dangers present, as well as the emergency
response equipment available--including locations and use instructions--is an
let's consider some specific needs.
- Easily accessed, operational equipment is a given. The requirement for
quality emergency showers and eyewashes is fundamental to a quality response.
Emergency equipment that doesn't operate properly, hasn't been adequately
maintained, or does not provide the required capabilities will exacerbate the
victim's anxiety. High-quality emergency equipment in the proper numbers and
locations should be assumed. This is not a place to skimp!
Features such as
high-visibility signage, easy-to-operate actuation, flow controls to ensure
smooth operation, and diffused spray eyewash and shower heads are good
investments. Remember, the products that you choose can have an impact on the degree of anxiety experienced by accident victims.
- Ensure privacy during use. Imagine an injured employee who needs to
disrobe under an emergency shower flow and stand there for the required 15-minute
use cycle. While it has to be done and few would hesitate, consider the state of
mind of that employee a few minutes into the cycle. Consider that the victim is
probably embarrassed the accident even occurred; if you add in the
embarrassment of an exposed 15-minute shower, you get some sense of the
person's state of mind. There are a number of products on the market that
address the privacy needs of victims using emergency equipment. Figure 1 shows a plumbed-in drench shower with a privacy curtain attached--a low-cost option that
provides a modicum of privacy, making shower use far less stressful.
specifiers are moving toward the ultimate in visibility and privacy by
specifying emergency shower and eyewash booths (shown in Figure 2). These offer superior visibility
to accident victims, as well as privacy during use, and they provide the added
benefit of a turnkey response system that is tailored to each user's specific
needs. In larger sizes, they also can provide space inside for safety personnel
to assist the victim during use.
Water Temperature and Testing
- Encourage full-cycle use. In addition to providing operable emergency
equipment, with victim-oriented features that offer as much comfort and privacy
as possible, it is imperative that your emergency response program encourage
full-cycle use. The ANSI Z358.1-2004 standard stipulates that emergency showers
and eyewashes should be used for a full 15-minute drench or irrigation cycle in
all instances. Adhering to the required timeframe ensures that all hazardous
materials have been adequately flushed from the body, mitigating any potential
further injury. In many geographic areas, municipally supplied water can become
cold enough to make a 15-minute use cycle a torture test, let alone a
comforting experience. Likewise, there are geographic areas and hot ambient
temperature industrial processes that can heat municipal water to dangerously
warm levels, again possibly resulting in a shortened use cycle. It is
imperative that emergency response assets reconcile these situations with
either tempering or reverse tempering to ensure the water used is within a safe
and comfortable range. Per the ANSI Z358.1 standard, the range should be
between 60 degrees F and below 100 degrees F for both emergency showers and
- A disciplined maintenance program means no embarrassing surprises. Consider
your emergency response maintenance and use procedures: ANSI requires that all
emergency showers and eyewashes should be physically tested every week and
thoroughly inspected every year. This not only assures proper operation, but also
flushes out debris in the system.
Training and Documentation
is also important that your operating procedures include the specific
responsibilities of all of the people involved in emergency response, including
otherwise uninvolved employees who could be potential victims. Written
procedures ensure everyone knows his or her role and also provide valuable
documentation in the event of a serious accident.
- Train and drill the team. Once the equipment and safety/emergency
procedures are in place, it's time to make sure response is second nature for
everyone. One would hope that Al knew exactly where to go for emergency aid and
what to do once he got there, and that, likewise, the other people involved in
assisting with the response also swung into action automatically. Training
employees and management regarding the locations of your emergency equipment
and how to operate the various response assets completes your overall
preparation and response plan.
the title of this article implies, providing a supportive environment that
encourages understanding of the risks and the procedures to follow in the event
of an accident will, we hope, minimize pain and suffering of employees and
their families. There is more at stake than a deviation from a regulation.
Every incident involves a very anxious human being.
This article appeared in the December 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.