Six Emergency Response Habits Employees Need to Develop

[via OHS Online]

shutterstock_619418876Six Emergency Response Habits Employees Need to Develop

Employees need to refresh their training and have drills regularly so they will be able to rely on both their knowledge and their experience when emergencies happen.

By Karen D. Hamel    Jul 01, 2017

If safety glasses, ear plugs, and steel-toed shoes are required in a production area, most employees who work there every day will eventually get into the habit of wearing them‚ÄĒespecially when they receive coaching and positive reinforcement for remembering them. When the same start-up procedure is used at the beginning of the shift every day, it will become habitual, too.

Developing good safety habits can help reduce the chance of injuries. But what happens when there is an emergency or something out of the normal happens? Employees need to be just as prepared for the unexpected as they are for routine operations.

Training employees on the types of emergencies that could happen at or around the facility and what their role is during those emergencies are essential first steps in preparing them to respond appropriately. In some cases, the training may be even be required by OSHA regulations. Drills help everyone to apply what they have learned and actually walk through the response process so that it becomes familiar. The trick is having drills often enough that employees can develop emergency response habits.

Many professional responders agree that when there is an emergency, people’s actions don’t rise to the occasion‚ÄĒthey fall back to their highest level of training. This happens because it is what they know, which makes them comfortable with the actions they need to take. That’s one of the reasons why even the most seasoned responders train and drill regularly, so that they know what they are going to do, which makes them ready to act instinctively when the need arises.

Given that even professional responders continually train and drill so that they will be prepared to act, it is wrong to assume that employees will instinctively know what to do when there is an emergency. Just like the firefighters, hazmat team, ambulance crew, or anyone else who may be called for assistance, employees need to refresh their training and have drills regularly so that they will be able to rely on both their knowledge and their experience when emergencies happen.

While it is probably not realistic to train every employee to be a contingency planner who is prepared for any time of emergency that could ever happen, each employee needs to specifically know what they are expected to do during different types of emergencies. Here are a few of the basic emergency response habits every employee can develop.

Exit Routes
Some facilities have multiple types of alarms, but for many facilities, an alarm means that something is wrong and everyone should evacuate. Each employee should know where the exit routes are and where the closest exit is. In addition, they should also be able to leave the building at least two different ways.

Be sure that evacuation drills allow employees to practice using both primary and alternative routes so that they are less likely to panic if they aren’t able to use their primary route in an emergency. Employees also should know where to go after they leave the building and whom to report to after they have evacuated.

Chemical Splashes
Under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, hazardous chemical containers need to be properly labeled. The information on the label provides basic information about a chemical’s hazard. But when an employee has been splashed or unsafely exposed to a hazardous chemical, Safety Data Sheets (SDS) can provide more details to better help the affected employee. Knowing where to locate SDS and how to quickly find the one that is needed allows faster response and can lessen the extent of an injury.

Eyewash Stations and Drench Showers
In areas where corrosive chemicals are used, knowing how to get to eyewash stations and drench showers quickly can literally mean the difference between a first aid incident and a recordable injury with a long recovery time. Try blindfolding employees to see whether they can reach the nearest eyewash or drench shower in less than 10 seconds.

Fire Extinguishers
Most building codes require fire extinguishers; because they need to be checked monthly, most are fully charged and ready to use. However, whether or not employees should actually use them is sometimes a debate. Some facilities develop “do not use” policies because they feel that having an employee attempt to put out an incipient fire with an extinguisher is too big of a risk. Instead, they want their employees to pull the fire alarm and exit the building.

For facilities that do not have this type of policy, annual fire extinguisher drills can help them to remember to pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep. Be sure that these drills also include instruction on exiting the building if they have exhausted an extinguisher but have failed to put out the fire.

Spill Response
Most spills that happen in fixed facilities are small and can be safely cleaned up by employees in the immediate area. OSHA calls these “incidental spills.” When a spill creates an unsafe atmosphere or threatens the health of employees, it is most likely an “emergency spill” and needs to be cleaned up by employees who have been trained to OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard.

All employees need to be taught how to quickly determine whether they are capable of cleaning up a spill or need to call in trained emergency spill responders. Volume, location, chemical properties, and levels of training are all factors that need to be taken into consideration when training employees how to determine whether a spill is incidental.

Injury Response and Reporting
Facilities that are not located in close proximity to hospitals or infirmaries need to have employees who are trained to administer first aid. While it is not necessary for every employee to receive first aid training, it is important for every employee to know what to do when someone is injured. At a minimum, every employee should know whom to report an injury to, as well as the process that will be used to investigate the root cause of an incident. Even elementary skills such as being able to retrieve the first aid kit or AED, or being able to meet the ambulance at the door and direct them to an injured employee, are helpful.

Few people ever reach the point where responding to emergencies is as instinctive as tying their shoes. But without regular emergency training and drills, response actions will never become familiar, let alone become habits. The more comfortable employees are with their roles in emergency response, the more likely they will be to follow established plans and avoid injuries.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.


REPOST: Compliance of Eyewash Stations in Healthcare

Medical Environment Update

September 1, 2016

SECTION: Vol. 26 No. 9 ISSN: 1520-8222

¬†¬†Editor’s note: In this story, which originally appeared in Facility Care, consultant Brad Keyes, CHSP, explains the complex world of eyewash stations.
¬†¬†¬†When and where are eyewash stations required in a healthcare facility? This is one of the more frequent issues with which healthcare professionals struggle. There is a tendency to place these stations nearly everywhere, but in reality there aren’t as many locations that require eyewash stations as one may think.
¬†¬†¬†Eyewash stations are required wherever there is a possibility that caustic or corrosive chemicals could splash into an individual’s eye. It is important to note that blood and body fluids are not considered to be caustic or corrosive. It is also important to note that the use of PPE such as face shields, glasses, or goggles does not exempt a facility from needing an eyewash station.

   Where to place a station

¬†¬†¬†Most accreditation organizations base their positions on whether an eyewash station (or an emergency¬†shower) is required on the healthcare organization’s decision to conduct a risk assessment, and on the findings of that assessment. Areas where work is done with corrosive and caustic chemicals do not necessarily require an eyewash station or emergency¬†shower unless chemicals could be splashed into the eyes or onto the skin. An exception is if an eyewash station is part of regulation or accreditation requirements.
   For example, if an environmental services worker opens a 1-gallon container of a liquid cleaner that is considered caustic or corrosive, and inserts a suction tube for a mixer, that may not present much of a splash hazard, and a risk assessment could state that an eyewash station is not warranted.
On the other hand, if the risk assessment determines the removal of the suction tube constitutes a splash hazard, then an eyewash station would be required. Similarly, if the employee pours this chemical from its original container into another container, now the risk of a splash is much greater, and a risk assessment would likely require an eyewash station. All risk assessments are conducted with the presumption that staff will not be wearing any PPE, although eye protection, face shields, and gloves and aprons must be worn during the use of caustic or corrosive materials.
¬†¬†¬†If there are no corrosive or caustic chemicals present, there is no need to conduct a risk assessment and therefore no need for an eyewash station. Whether the term “corrosive” or the term “injurious corrosive” is used to describe a chemical, it’s all the same. Either would cause an injury.
   If there is a possibility that a corrosive or caustic material can be splashed onto the skin, then an emergency shower is required. But if a risk assessment determines there is no possibility of the chemicals splashing onto the skin through normal use, there would not be a requirement for an emergency shower. The risk assessment should also consider emergency spills as well. Just like eyewash stations, if regulation or accreditation standards require the presence of emergency showers, you would need to install one regardless of whether corrosive or caustic materials are present.

   No fair substitute

¬†¬†¬†While portable squeeze bottles are not prohibited, they are not a substitute for an approved ANSI Z358.1-2014 eyewash station because they don’t provide hands-free use and do not flow water continuously for 15 minutes. In fact, portable squeeze bottles are a potential problem for healthcare organizations since they are usually placed around an area where a potential hazard may occur. In other words, they are placed in locations where somebody decided that there is some sort of splash risk present and that a portable bottle would be of some use. This can lead to the incorrect assumption that portable bottles are an approved eyewash station.
   In addition, portable squeeze bottles need to have their water changed every two years or so, and that can be overlooked at times, leading to a citation. Also, these bottles are a huge red flag to a surveyor-once he or she sees the portable bottle, a tracer is likely to follow.

   A mandatory guidance?     

   The ANSI Z358.1-2014 standard for eyewash stations is based on recommendations from OSHA letters of interpretation. OSHA requires an employer to provide suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body when employees may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials. ANSI standards become mandatory OSHA standards only when they are adopted by OSHA. ANSI Z358.1 has not; however, it provides detailed information regarding the installation and operation of emergency eyewash and shower equipment. OSHA, therefore, has often referred employers to ANSI Z358.1 as a source of guidance for protecting employees who may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials. Accreditation organizations seem to have latched on to ANSI Z358.1 as the standard with which to comply.

   A proper assessment

¬†¬†¬†The organization is expected to conduct a risk assessment (or survey) of its facility’s operation and process areas to determine if and where eyewash stations are needed. If the facility has determined that an eyewash station is needed, that station needs to conform to ANSI Z358.1-2014, which has the following specifications:
   * Only eyewash stations that are capable of providing a flow of clean, potable water at a rate of 0.4 gallons per minute at 30 psi for 15 minutes are permitted. Some self-contained eyewash stations provide this flow requirement, but normally plumbed eyewash stations are installed.
   * The flow nozzles of the eyewash station must be mounted a minimum of 33 inches and a maximum of 45 inches above the floor, and a minimum of 6 inches from any wall, post, or other barrier.
   * Activation of the eyewash station must occur within one second or less of operating the control valve, so this typically eliminates the faucet-mounted eyewash stations that require the operation of three -levers to obtain a balanced flow of water. The control valve must remain open on its own until it is intentionally turned off.
¬†¬†¬†* Approved eyewash stations are required to be located within 10 seconds’ travel time (or 55 feet) of the hazard, and the path to an eyewash station must not be hindered or obstructed. The ANSI Z358.1-2014 standard has changed (for chemicals NOT considered to be corrosive) to allow one door in the path to an eyewash station, provided the door cannot be locked and the door swings toward the eyewash station.
¬†¬†¬†* While there is no standard that prohibits small, supplemental personal wash bottles, they cannot meet the flow rate requirements for a 15-minute flush, and therefore are not a substitute for a plumbed eyewash station. They can serve as a supplemental aid, but the plumbed eyewash station still needs to be located within 10 seconds’ travel time (or 55 feet) of the hazard. The presence of personal wash bottles may indicate a need for a plumbed eyewash station.
   * The temperature of the water must be tepid. The ANSI standard defines tepid water as being between 60 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To achieve this temperature range, the organization may have to install mixing valves. Some accreditation organizations allow water temperatures outside of this range, provided a risk assessment is conducted by qualified individuals who analyze the hazard and the temperature of the water to flush the hazard. Qualifying individuals must include an individual with clinical or medical training.
   * Weekly activation of the plumbed eyewash stations is required to clear any sediment or bacteria. There is no specified time that the water must flow. An annual inspection of the eyewash station is required to determine conformances with the installation requirements are maintained.

   Tips for evaluating compliance

   Here are some recommendations on evaluating your existing eyewash stations for compliance:
   * In a healthcare setting, eyewash stations are typically found where cleaning chemicals are mixed (such as housekeeping areas); where plant operations take place; and in kitchens, generator rooms, boiler rooms, environmental services storage rooms for battery-powered floor scrubbers, in-house laundries, dialysis mixing rooms, and laboratories. Find out whether a risk assessment has been conducted to determine the need for eyewash stations.
   * All required eyewash stations must be operated in one second or less. This means the faucet-mounted type that requires turning aa hot water lever and a cold water lever, and then pulling a center lever, is not permitted.
   * Access to the eyewash station must be within 10 seconds (or 55 feet) of the hazard. The individual seeking an eyewash station may travel through one door to get to an eyewash station, provided the chemical is NOT corrosive and the door is unlockable and swings toward the eyewash station.
   * If an eyewash station is observed outside of an area where one is typically needed, ask the staff who work in the area why it is there. See if they have conducted a risk assessment that requires it to be there. Advise them that if there is no valid reason for the eyewash station to be there, it can be removed, which may save them the time and resources spent in maintaining it.
   * Eyewash stations may need to have a mixing valve to maintain a flow of water in the 60- to 100-degree Fahrenheit range. Ask to see the risk assessment to determine whether a mixing valve is required.
   * Every plumbed eyewash station needs to be tested weekly by flowing water to clear any sediment and bacteria. There is no requirement regarding how long the water must flow. Every eyewash station must be inspected annually to determine whether the eyewash station still conforms to the installation parameters. The weekly test and annual inspections must be documented.
¬†¬†¬†* The presence of eyewash bottles indicates someone in the organization decided the bottles were needed. Investigate and ask why the bottles are there. Determine whether there is a need for a plumbed eyewash station within 10 seconds’ travel time (or 55 feet) of the perceived hazard. Check the expiration date on the bottles.
   * Finally, always check with your state and local authorities to determine whether they have any additional requirements.
FACT: 88% of Emergency Showers and Eyewashes Are Not ANSI Compliant

According to¬†Occupational Health and Safety¬†“The first 10-15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance, especially a corrosive substance, are critical. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury. Emergency shower and eyewash stations provide on-the-spot decontamination. Emergency shower and eyewash stations are a necessary backup to minimize the effects of accident exposure to chemicals.”

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) acquires a list for performance and use requirements for eyewash and shower equipment for emergency treatment of the eyes or body of a person exposed to hazardous materials.

The ANSI Z358.1 standard for emergency showers and eyewashes states that the equipment must be accessible within 10 seconds of a hazard.

The figure to the left is based on a study of approximately 1,000 emergency showers and eye/face washes tested for compliance to the ANSI Z358.1-2014 Standard.

As you can see, it is quite common to find that the majority of emergency showers and eyewashes in the field are not compliant with the standard, potentially resulting in fines from OSHA, or worse, a site not being able to provide proper first aid in the event of an emergency. ANSI requires that all emergency showers and eyewashes are inspected on a weekly basis and a full test to be conducted annually, this is a crucial piece of the standard for maximum workplace safety.

Click here to obtain¬†Haws‘ free ANSI Z358.1-2014 checklist. For more information on Haws‘¬†emergency showers and eyewashes, click here.