Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2007 10:10:25 -0500
Reply-To: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Safety shower guidelines?

We had an event last week that raised questions about some of our  
conventional advice to laboratory workers. A lab tech spilled some  
phenol on his lab coat and shirt. His reaction was to ask his labmate  
to call 911 and then to go past the safety shower in his lab, 4 floors  
downstairs and into a bathroom with a shower and start decontamination  
there. He ended up with some skin damage, but no large health concern  
associated with this incident.

In the lessons learned e-mail I sent to the lab community, I mentioned  
(among other things) that we recommend people start decontamination in  
the lab rather than travel to another shower because of the increase  
in contact time with the chemical (I tried to phrase this in a way  
that was non-blaming). The responses we got from all over campus, from  
lab techs we respect for their safety awareness and attitude, is that  
they would never use the safety shower in their lab because of the  
fear of destroying nearby equipment, damaging samples, and the  
possibility that rinse water would leak downstairs into labs below, as  
well as privacy issues.

We were surprised by this reaction and realized that
1) our advice was somewhat limited and idealistic and
2) safety showers are a rather clumsy way of dealing with many  
emergency but less severe skin exposures, which leads to a reluctance  
to use them.

In order to respond to this controversy, I am mulling how we might  
modify our general advice. Clearly, safety showers are important in  
cases when people are on fire or there is a large skin exposure,  
particularly exposures in the face which would hinder mobility. But I  
wonder if there is appropriate alternative advice in less severe  
cases. Some of our laboratories are fitted with drench hoses at the  
sink, which are a more controlled response, but these labs are a  
significant minority. I would note that this line of thought is  
partially trigged by the 2006 CHAS symposium on skin decontamination  
in San Francisco, but the alternative products discussed there aren't  
currently available in the U.S.

Thanks for any thoughts or comments you have in this regard.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart, CIH
Environmental Safety Manager
University of Vermont
Environmental Safety Facility
667 Spear St. Burlington, VT  05405

fax: (802)656-8682

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