Our last field trip was to the Medical Center of Americas’ Cardwell Collaborative. One good way to gauge the success of a tour is by how long people stay afterwards and talk about the event. This trip set the record!
One question came up: Why are there no drains for the emergency showers? Nobody seemed to have the answer and an explanation was given that the “fix” was in the works.
Emma Schwartz, the President of the MCA, gave this answer:
“There are purposely NO DRAINS for the emergency showers. That is a deliberate design feature. When a chemical or biological spill occurs (e.g., someone gets a chemical on them that they have to shower off in the emergency showers), we have to “contain” the spill and not allow the chemicals or biologicals to mix with normal waste water – which could cause contamination harm to someone else along the way. Research buildings have two options to deal with this in their design and operation: (1) no drains under the emergency showers AND a “spill clean-up” Standard Operating Procedure and Chemical Hygiene Plan as part of the Lab Safety Plan (i.e., specific tools and processes to clean up the contaminated water), or (2) build out a completely separate drainage system for the emergency showers that would pool the contaminated water in a special place for proper removal in accordance with the Lab Safety Plan. The second option is VERY expensive, and given the infrequency of chemical / biological spills, we opted for option #1.”
Safety expert, Sarah Mueller, has this to say:
“If you are in a situation where the water from the safety showers floods the lab during use, make sure you train and re-train lab workers to still use the safety showers! There are many factors that come into play during incidents that require the use of a safety shower, so the last thing you want someone to be worrying about is the fact that the water is not draining. Making individuals aware of this fact ahead of time will hopefully save valuable time. It is equally important to discourage people from seeking out showers in rest rooms instead of using the safety showers as part of the training. Make sure everyone knows that safety showers should be used when needed, which is why they are there!”
So, there you have it.