To heat or not to heat? That is the question

Published:  09 November, 2013

The argument over the pros and cons of whether or not to install heated water safety showers has possibly run it course with the ANSI.Z358.1-2009 standard now recommending 15 minutes tepid water drench time' for all emergency showers. Janet Dickinson, operations manager at UK based Showers & Eyebaths Services takes a look at what emergency safety showers are available that meet current standards.

With safety officers and purchasing/facility managers mindful of the fact that it is no longer an option to give their workforce cold water safety showers direct from the mains, the right decision is difficult to make about what safety equipment they actually need for purpose.

An emergency safety shower is a piece of equipment that business and industry have seen, until recently, as an afterthought. A safety shower might stand unused for weeks, months or even years (apart from a weekly test) which hardly makes it the most vital piece of equipment; that is until there's an emergency, and then it becomes invaluable. If you are the person who has just been sprayed with concentrated acid, you will want to know that the emergency shower is going to do its job perfectly, first time every time without exacerbating the problem further.

Improvements in Health & Safety awareness, duty of care to employees and increasingly extreme environmental conditions in which an operative has to work mean that more thought than ever before has to go into safety shower purchasing decisions.

Many COSHH sheets state that a casualty has to shower for at least 15 minutes in order for the satisfactory removal of hard to shift chemical contaminants such as caustic soda. The necessity for 15 minutes or more of tepid water is absolutely vital so minimising the premature cessation of decontamination due to thermal shock.

So when specifying a safety shower water access/storage, available space, the costs of heating large volumes of water, the cost of installing and running inline instantaneous water heaters and the environment are all points for consideration for what will be the purchase of the most effective piece of equipment.

A 'tank' shower is possibly the most effective solution to guarantee tepid water as by the very nature of being able to store water means operationally it is not affected by water or power failures. Regardless of ambient or incoming water temperatures the shower will deliver a guaranteed 15 minutes of tepid water at 76 litres per minute as recommended by ANSI because of the effective management of the stored water. More sophisticated methods are available that heat the tank so that it is operable in temperatures down to minus 40 0C. Equally the method of applying a 'chiller' to the tank enables safe use in temperatures up to plus 40 0C.

If there is access to suitable mains water providing the correct flow rates then it is possible to install a 'mains-fed' safety shower. However this sort of equipment will not deliver tepid water (a common misconception) and therefore must be connected to a tepid water supply.

Add to this a safety shower system that does not store water in the pipe work and is completely self-draining, then you have a piece of equipment that is more energy-efficient and resistant to corrosion. And if it does not hold any water at all then it cannot ever freeze or overheat so this is ideal for any environment.

If the workforce is always on the move, self-contained mobile showers are available with their own power source to give the stipulated 15 minutes of tepid water.

Dickinson concludes that “a safety shower is for life, not for luxury”.

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