|January 21, 2000||Volume 7, Number 9|
Push is on to overcome problem of substandard emergency showers
The U of S could be contravening provincial Occupational Health and Safety regulations because many of its hundreds of emergency showers and eyewash stations are substandard, and some of them are rarely, if ever, tested.
But the University isnt being charged by regulators because its Health, Safety and Environment department has declared the troubling situation to Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management, and is working to rectify the situation.
The problem recently came to the attention of Jamie Gates, whos been in his position as U of S Environmental Manager for just one year.
He found that a number of campus emergency showers and eyewash stations which are used to help staff who suffer radiation or chemical spills on their skin or eyes havent been tested for several years. More than that, some of those that have recently been tested shot out dirty, brown water and often that water was ice-cold, which is contrary to the "lukewarm" temperature required by provincial regulations.
As a result, Gates is urging laboratory staff across campus to test and ensure the showers and eyewash stands work properly, and hes telling them that if the units arent working, staff should immediately contact Facilities Management to get repairs done.
But just as troubling to Gates is the fact that, even if all the emergency showers and eyewash stations were brought up to provincial standards those standards are "based on an industrial and unisex" model: that is, a factory floor where only men work.
"Many of the [U of S] showers are in public hallways, and theyre cold showers," and they pour out a heavy flow of water, Gates says, so there are a number of disincentives for people to use them, even if theyve suffered a hazardous spill.
"For example, if a girl spills a chemical on herself, the procedure we require is a 15-minute shower, and youve got to strip."
Gates says theres a tremendous disincentive for a woman to stand naked under an ice-cold shower for 15-minutes in an open public hallway on campus. Add to that, the fact that the standard of 20 gallons per minute pumps a lot of water onto the floor, and without proper drainage that could damage very expensive computer or lab equipment nearby.
What Gates wants for the U of S is a new standard of emergency shower, that people will be willing to use when they need it.
"The standard for an emergency shower should be at least that of a shower at home," Gates says.
He says the new Thorvaldson Building renovation will install above-standard emergency showers, complete with an enclosed booth, temperate water, and a second, normal shower-head, so people can use the shower in non-emergency situations and get used to the fact that it is there when it may be needed.
"We have to adopt a best-practices standard," Gates says.
He doesnt want a repeat of a case hes heard of, where a staff person was contaminated with radioactive isotopes and instead of going to the nearest emergency shower, was taken to the Waste Management Building for a shower, because the water could be cleaned up more easily there.
By approaching Saskatchewans Department of Environment and Resource Management with the shower and eyewash station problem and enlisting the departments help, Gates says the campus Health, Safety and Environment Department is being proactive.
A complete retrofit of the safety showers and eyewash stands would be extremely costly, but while Gates wants testing and repairs to the existing equipment, his eyes are on major improvements to these safety features in all new installations on campus.
"Were trying to position ourselves to make a quantum leap."
For further information, visit the web site or contact email@example.com
Next issue of