Remote Locations: The Safety Double-Whammy! While the Risk to Workers May Increase in Remote Locations, a Variety of Emergency Response Products Are Available to Provide Effective First Aid

By Hayes, Casey | Occupational Hazards, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Remote Locations: The Safety Double-Whammy! While the Risk to Workers May Increase in Remote Locations, a Variety of Emergency Response Products Are Available to Provide Effective First Aid


Hayes, Casey, Occupational Hazards


Business is about taking calculated risks. We weigh potential rewards against the risks and, with suitable precautions, we proceed where prudent. It is an acceptable norm to place yourself in a higher risk position when you understand the increased risks and plan for them, and the rewards justify the chance. It's a business decision. But what about circumstances where the risks are higher than normal and the best available response mechanisms, in the event of unforeseen problems, are not optimal?

Maintaining worker safety in remote commercial and industrial operations is precisely that type of "double-whammy." On the one hand, you have to deal with the remote operation itself. Any time you leave your known, home-base environment, you lose some degree of control resulting in increased risk. Maybe you're outdoors in a potentially windy or wet location, or perhaps the light available in an indoor remote location isn't great. Either way, you may have increased the risk of injury. At the same time, the emergency response equipment available for use in remote locations has traditionally not been as robust as, for example, the plumbed-in eyewashes and emergency showers "back at the shop." So, in many instances, remote operations witness increased risk of injury and, if injury occurs, the traditional response mechanisms are not as good as you might desire.

Interestingly, ANSI standards do not differentiate between remote and more permanent locations. That means unimpeded access within 10 seconds, 15-minute drench and/or irrigation cycles, tepid water and all! Having a couple of squeeze-bottle eyewashes on hand at a remote site might make management feel better, but the fact is that the risk of injury is probably higher in remote areas and squeeze-bottles are not adequate replacements for ANSI-compliant, full-function eyewashes.

TYPES OF EQUIPMENT

It's important to understand the types of portable emergency equipment that are available for remote areas, as well as their intended uses and limitations.

Personal Eyewash Units -- Squeeze-bottles and other personal eyewashes are intended to be kept in the immediate vicinity of employees. The main purpose of these products is to provide immediate initial flushing only. With that accomplished, the injured individual is required to then proceed to a plumbed-in or self-contained eyewash capable of irrigating the eyes for the required 15-minute period. Personal eyewash units are not intended to replace full-feature eyewash equipment.

Gravity-Fed Portable Eyewashes -- Gravity-fed portable eyewashes are available to meet the ANSI Z358.4-2004 requirement for a full 15-minute irrigation cycle at 0.4 gpm. These products generally are lightweight plastic designs, featuring solid mounting brackets and easy-access pull-down eyewash arms. When not in use, the fold-down arm usually has a positive upper lock that also shields the spray heads to keep them clean. Bacteriostatic additive is needed to permit storage of a single water charge for up to 6 months.

Recognizing ANSI's tepid water requirement, several gravity-fed products also are available with tepid water delivery capabilities. The best of these units features a 1,000 watt, 120V AC submergible thermostatically controlled heater that maintains water temperature at 75 degrees F in ambient temperatures as low as -30 degrees F. These products also typically provide an insulation blanket that covers the water tank. Gravity-fed portable eyewashes offer an economical response alternative, delivering either tepid or ambient temperature water. (See Photo #1)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Air-Charged Portable Eyewashes -- In many instances, air-charged eyewashes are the most appropriate response. Typically featuring stainless steel tanks that serve as a solid base of a product that sits flat on the ground, air-charged systems usually mount the dust-shielded eyewash heads on top of the tank. …

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