in South Africa, daily lose hundreds and
thousands of rand due to injuries to
employees on duty.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 (Act No. 85 of 1993) together with all the Safety Regulations provides us with minimum requirements to eliminate, reduce or control hazardous working environments to prevent injuries or in extreme circumstances death or permanent disability. According to the Machinery and Occupational Safety Act, 1983 (Act 6 of 1983) under Section 3 "First aid, emergency equipment and procedures" part 8 & 9 it states the following:
8. Where an employee is exposed or can be exposed to a
potential hazard of injury to the eye through contact with a biological or
chemical substance, the employer concerned shall make sure that there is an
eyewash fountain; in the immediate vicinity of the workplace of such employee
and that the employee is trained in the use thereof.
9. Where an employee at a workplace is exposed or can be exposed to a potential hazard of injury to or absorption through the skin as a result of sudden contact with a large amount of toxic, corrosive, high risk or similar hazardous substance, the employer concerned shall make sure that there is a fast-reacting deluge-shower with clean water or a similar facility in the immediate vicinity of the workplace of such employee and that the employee is trained in the use thereof.
The first 10 to 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. Dust or small foreign
particles may cause permanent damage or even lead to blindness if not immediately
Emergency showers and eyewash stations provide on-the-spot decontamination. They allow workers to flush away hazardous substances that can cause injury. Accidental chemical exposures can still occur even with good engineering controls and safety precautions. As a result, it is essential to look beyond the use of goggles, face shields, and procedures for using personal protective equipment. Emergency showers and eyewash stations are a necessary backup to minimize the effects of accident exposure to chemicals. Emergency showers can also be used effectively in extinguishing clothing fires or for flushing contaminants off clothing. To be effective, the equipment has to be accessible. ANSI recommends that a person be able to reach the equipment in no more than 10 seconds. In practical terms, consider that the person who needs the equipment will be injured, and may not have use of their vision. ANSI notes that the average person can walk 16 to 17 metres (55 feet) in 10 seconds, but this does not account for the physical and emotional state of the person.
However, the "10 second" rule may be modified depending on the potential effect of the chemical. Where a highly corrosive chemical is used, an emergency shower and eyewash station may be required within 3-6 metres from the hazard. These units should be installed in such a way that they do not become contaminated from corrosive chemicals used nearby.
The location of each emergency shower or eyewash station should be identified with a highly visible sign. The sign should be in the form of a symbol that does not require workers to have language skills to understand it. The location should be well lit.