The Ultimate Emergency Shower

. . . is one that never has to be used!

It has been estimated that more than 90 percent of the installed emergency showers and eyewashes across North America are not presently supplied by tempered water as required by ANSI Z358.1-2009. This represents a monstrous risk being taken by the companies involved: OSHA fines for non-compliance could easily run into the six-figure territory.

And that does not even consider the risk associated with an injured worker claiming excessive injuries were sustained because he couldn't remain in a cold-water shower for the prescribed 15-minute drench protocol. We've heard of at least one multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving this situation that is currently being litigated.

Obviously, the answer is to provide tempered water at a minimum. State-of-the-art tempered water systems integrate right-sized heating, storage, and recirculation capabilities -- appropriate for the number of shower and eyewash outlets -- into each specific application. This is no small feat considering the water volume, pressure, and temperature maintenance demands in most plant operations. When one begins to reflect the impact of possible multiple concurrent injuries from a single major event, the demands of a plant-wide design can be extremely complex.

Lest I forget, there is also an upper temperature limit in the ANSI standard that obliges hot-weather or hot-process facilities to cool water to below 100 degrees F before use. In these applications, a chiller replaces the heat source; for the most part, the other elements of the system remain the same.

So the answer to providing tempered water lies in solutions that custom configure emergency equipment into the exact feed water situation in your plant. But what about the risks associated with proper maintenance and documentation? ANSI requires weekly testing and flushing of the showers and eyewashes, as well as a more comprehensive annual operational inspection. It's a difficult task to accomplish the time-consuming testing, not to mention the documentation to prove compliance to ANSI or respond to litigation downstream.

The Future Has Arrived
A soon-to-be released new cloud-based software package can be configured to automate the process of both testing and documentation. It connects to measurement devices via cell or satellite modem through a VPN, and the secure website is password-accessible by virtually any browser-equipped device.

The package is being optionally designed into specific emergency shower systems to cost-effectively monitor and document tempered water operations and much more. In its basic application, it serves several significant functions:

  • Testing and maintenance. Tests can be run on a calendar basis or performed on demand, either locally or remotely via a secure Internet link. Shower and eyewash outlet heads can be remotely bypassed on the equipment being controlled to accommodate unmanned remote testing. This is an outstanding feature, allowing simple compliance with current ANSI test requirements, along with credible documentation. The package also can be configured to detect unwanted or dangerous data values and generate e-mail or text alerts to service or supervisory personnel.
  • Event monitoring. It can be configured to alert supervisory personnel and others that a piece of equipment has been activated. This feature provides obvious benefits in speeding follow-up assistance. Importantly, it can be used to advise other personnel of activation events that occur when employees are working alone and/or unsupervised.
  • Data recording. All test and activation results are recorded and archived for the entire enterprise. Importantly, this system documentation includes the operational circumstances (water temperature, pressure, etc.), as well as the duration of activation, which can be invaluable in potential subsequent litigation. This information may be selectively retrieved and displayed using standard summary reporting tools or exported to a client-side database for further analysis.

The package can be configured to integrate into the customer's operation to monitor nearby hazards, such as fluid or gas pipeline temperatures and pressures. Its reliable cellular warning capability would then alert appropriate personnel of an out-of-range operating situation before it results in a potentially catastrophic failure. The ultimate emergency shower is the one that never needs to be used in the first place!

The advantages of this cloud-based software package are obvious: Lower risk through better monitoring, testing/maintenance, and documentation; increased protection for employees; and better protection against production losses due to failures, plant damage, and employee injury.

The combination is certainly right for the times: Emergency showers that provide the ultimate in cutting-edge shower/eyewash design; tempered water to ensure both compliance with ANSI requirements and employee comfort during emergency response treatment; and this software package ensuring proper maintenance, monitoring, documentation, and alert signaling of other potential failure points.

This development and related advances in shower and tempering systems allows users to make the process of managing an enterprise-wide safety response network fully ANSI compliant, documented, and efficient in the best interest of both the company and its valued employees.

The future has arrived, and your employees now can concentrate their fullest attention on maximizing plant productivity.

This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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