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Last updateWed, 23 Aug 2017 3pm

Safety equipment and the importance of staff training

Installing safety eyewash stations and emergency showers in your workplace is essential if you work with hazardous substances - but installation is only part of the story. If your staff don’t know how to properly use the equipment, then it’s as good as useless.

Unfortunately, workplaces can be dangerous - but proper emergency equipment training can help safeguard against employee injury and subsequent lost working days. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best practices surrounding emergency equipment training; but first, let’s take a look at what the ANSI regulations say on the matter.

The ANSI regulations

The ANSI regulations - specifically, ANSI Z358.1 - govern the way in which safety eyewash fountains and drench showers are manufactured, installed and used, meaning that you, as the end user, must takes steps to attain compliance.

Among other things, this includes making sure that your staff are adequately trained in how to use the facilities - but the regulations don’t go into much more detail than that. Thankfully, we’ve compiled some exercises that you can use to make sure that your staff are prepared for an emergency.

Training

Training should be undertaken with all employees whenever a new piece of equipment is installed. You should also provide training to any new employees as soon as possible after they join; training new starters can also be a great opportunity to refresh the memories of the rest of your workforce.

Show all of your employees the location of the safety equipment, and walk them along the route they would use to reach it from each respective danger hotspot. The ANSI regulations state that safety equipment must be located no more than a ten-second walk away from the hazardous area and that the route must be free from obstacles.

Naturally, in an emergency situation that warrants the use of an eye wash station, the user’s vision may well be compromised. To help your users prepare for this eventuality, have one of them wear a blindfold and attempt to navigate their way to the eye wash station, first on their own, and then with the assistance of a colleague.

Next, ask another worker to lie on the ground near to a danger hotspot and shout for assistance; two other employees can then help the ‘injured’ party to the eye wash station or safety shower. Role playing exercises like these can help increase engagement with training and inject some humour into an otherwise dull session.

Whenever you receive a new piece of safety equipment, be sure to keep the manufacturer’s instructions in a safe place so that they can be referred to for training purposes or in emergency situations. Once you’ve shown the employees how to locate the emergency equipment, demonstrate to them how it is activated and used, using the manufacturer’s instructions as a reference.

The naked truth

It may be a little embarrassing to talk about, but there is one huge obstacle to the proper use of emergency showers: the fear of public nudity. Think about it: how would you like to strip naked in front of your coworkers? For many people, this is like something out of an actual nightmare - but in order for safety showers to be used properly, the user must remove all of their clothing, or they could risk further injury. Clothing can become saturated with the hazardous substance and keep it in contact with the skin- and even if it’s only a minor contamination, prolonged contact can have serious consequences.

Of course, you could very reasonably assume that being covered with corrosive acid would lead you to dispense with social conventions pretty quickly, and you’d be right; however, the problem lies in those less serious instances where the individual has been contaminated, but not to the extent that death or life-changing injury could occur as a result. The taboo against public nudity is a powerful thing, and can lead otherwise rational people to risk injury and put themselves through unnecessary suffering, purely to save face.

Similarly, there are also taboos around the idea of ‘making a fuss’ - this is Britain, after all. Much like an elderly relative refuses to seek medical attention because they don’t wish to ‘be a nuisance’, many workers will avoid using emergency facilities for fear of drawing undue attention to themselves. Activating a safety shower can be both disruptive and attention-grabbing enough to give many people second thoughts in all but the least perilous emergency situations. Few of us like being the centre of attention - certainly not in the context of the workplace.

Regular training will help to demystify your emergency equipment and identify it as an inherent component of your workplace. It’s also worth impressing upon your workforce the potential repercussions of improper use: stripping naked in front of colleagues may be embarrassing, but it’s surely a small price to pay to avoid permanent injury or disfigurement.

Ultimately, your goal should be to create an all-encompassing culture of safety within your workplace. Of course, this is easier said than done, and is outside of the scope of this article - but it’s certainly something to strive towards.