Health and safety in remote work environments can be challenging. But when safety standards and best practices require you to have an emergency shower on site, you’ve got to find a way to make it happen.
Emergency Shower Requirements
First, start by checking Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for any chemicals used in the work area to determine whether a shower, eyewash, or both are needed.
If you do need an emergency shower, OSHA and ANSI regulations require them to:
- Release tepid water (between 60° and 100° F)
- Continue in a steady flow (about 30 gallons per minute) for 15 minutes for both the shower and eyewash (an eyewash would only require a minimum of 0.4 gallons per minute)
- Be accessible within 10 seconds of workers who may need them, so contingencies should be made if more than one worker could be potentially affected
These requirements are easy enough to meet in modern buildings where plumbing is available and reliable, but they can be quite challenging in locations without plumbing or electrical power.
Portable Emergency Showers
For remote and unplumbed work areas, portable emergency showers are often a great option. Gravity-fed eyewash units generally provide the absolute minimum of 0.4 GPM for 15 minutes, but they may not meet your needs if the SDS requires 15 minutes of flow for the body as well. So, it’s usually necessary to invest in a self-contained 400-450 gallon (2,000 liter) trailer-mounted vessel to hold the requir
ed about of fluid, as well as a way to push the water to the shower station at the desired PSI and volume. Many companies opt for air or electrically operated pump systems.
It’s not uncommon for environmental conditions to change rapidly in remote work areas, and many portable showers are designed to adapt to these conditions. Look for showers that can be easily moved and maneuvered when required, and that are compact enough to be stored when not in use.
Working in Extreme Temperatures
If your workers are carrying out tasks in extreme cold, you’ll want to make sure you've chosen an emergency shower and eyewash that is heat traced and well insulated with freeze protection. Additionally, in cold climates, the water must be heated to a tepid level to prevent hypothermia or thermal shock (for related reading, see Cold Stress: Your Winter Safety Guide). A heated area to stay warm is also highly desirable after drenching, but fast medical attention is most needed to ensure any injuries are not exasperated.
With emergency showers located in extremely hot environments, on the other hand, you will need to ensure that the standing water isn’t heated up due to solar radiation and lets out a surge of scalding water. Temperature-controlled safety showers or thermostatic valves can help achieve the tepid water that safety regulations require. When no water and no electrical power are available, passive radiator tank showers may be your only option. These showers provide cooling in temperatures above 120°F (~50°C) to a temperature at or below core body temperatures.
Assess and Anticipate
No matter what type of worksite you’re dealing with, the first step is always the same: assess the hazards and anticipate the issues. Once you understand the conditions, you can make an informed decision about the type of portable emergency shower your workers need. If in doubt, seek professional advice.