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Haz Mat "Specialist Course"
Sunday
Oct012017

VHF 3 What Ensemble’ should you choose?  

When a VHF case is suspected in a health care facility, the following SPLASH protective clothing should be worn in the isolation (Hot Zone/Exclusion Zone) area. The reason for identifying the isolation area for the patient in this manner relates to whom and where the high level of contamination exists. Obviously different response groups will have different geographical response areas; therefore they have to translate controlled hospital conditions to field ones while maintaining hazardous materials protocols for a safe response. The ensemble’ (we spoke in detail about last month) is chosen based on the hazard type and work conditions/resources that are available to the response group. When field conditions are encountered, all infrastructures must be created in-the-field whereas hospital conditions HAVE a designated infrastructure that has been pre-planned to handle all eventualities. In the field, these possible problems must be safely handled on a case-by-case basis.  This stated for all responders to a VHF incident, let’s look at the optimum situation for the hospital setting.

Inner “scrubs” that can be properly laundered under the VHF guidelines SHALL be worn. Additionally, NONE of these “scrubs” are to be removed from hospital grounds. This practice eliminates the spread of contamination outside the hospital facility and into the general public. This event would log-rhythmically increase the scope of your outbreak. As many hospital care workers have the tendency to wear their “scrubs” home from work, in this case this practice would be disastrous!

Once this practice is mastered, the issue of glove selection should be addressed. In most hazardous material situations the inner gloves are hospital care type nitrile medical exam gloves. However, in hazardous materials responses these are not used for exterior material handling. Heavier outer/chemical gloves are worn over these nitrile inner layers. Here, the hospital worker shall be using these gloves for patient handling. This is done in hospital settings for manual dexterity optimum capability as the rougher physical hazards have been removed by field response personnel. Therefore, as we progress through the decontamination system for VHF hazards, you may want to increase the number of glove pairs to fit the needs of your patient response. Through practical simulation, your group can adjust the number of pairs to custom fit your patient response. As an example; if your group decides to have multiple patients in one (1) isolation area, you may want to have as many pairs as patients so removal between patients eliminates adding gloves inside the isolation area thus reducing cross-contamination issues.

Next are “Splash” protective boots, booties, or overshoes. There are many choices and this should be a choice involving many voices within the hospital response Team. Footwear is very important as a variety of responders will be wearing them and the ability to avoid slip, trip, and falls, is of primary importance to eliminate contact with the contaminated floor except from your foot sole bottom. Not to mention regular injury from falling, causing related injuries to Team members. Remember, once a Team member is off work due to injury, this increases the work across the Team if replacement workers are not yet up-to-speed with current operating procedures.

Your Team can opt for inner walking shoes with outer “nuke boots” corrugated footie, outer chemical protective boots, overshoe goulashes’, and other options for chemical protective footwear. These all have a needed evaluation by your Team/Group to find which one will optimize your situational response. Latex nuke boots provide disposal, but this creates waste that needs treatment, whereas chemical boots & goulashes reduce waste but require decontamination and safe storage after incidents. The list and ramifications of each continue on-and-on. Each Team needs to carefully evaluate “their” particular ensemble’ to fit the organizations unique needs.

Splash protective Level “B” also is available in different forms. With booties attached, without booties attached, with hoods or without, and so on. For “Best Practices” Level “B” CPC should have attached booties and hoods for proper protection. The greatest challenge shall be with the glove attachment and face seal devices you choose. Unless you have a facility set aside for CPC storage and security, disposable suits or “limited use” designated suits is the safest approach to this problem. The dynamics involved with re-useable suits is a study all by itself and is only successful in a BSL (Bio-Safety Lab) 3 or 4 situation. This requires a permanent solely designated facility for this purpose alone.

Note; When CPC is not available or in short supply or protective styles change, adaptations must be made and used. The goal is to NOT compromise on safety while maintaining “workability”.

When dressing out in this ensemble’ negative pressure Level “C” respiratory protection is used. While this technically makes your ensemble’ Level “C”, true level “B” SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) is much too bulky and limiting to accomplish the work task at hand. Many medical procedures cannot be halted just because your air bottle is low requiring replacement. To off-set this negative “workability” the negative pressure system is adapted. There are however, a number of issues and types that need consideration. Most medical operations will employ the N95 mask system as it interphases well with hospital environments and training requirements. Complemented with a face shield this gives added protection. Just remember that you will still have openings that can be contaminated by splash contaminants that are virus infected. One option is to employ the use of full-face APR’s (Air Purifying Respirators) using the replaceable canister style “Dog-Bone” configuration. These are a bit more bulky, but protect the wearer from contact with splash viral contaminants. The newer models are more and more streamline while increasing the effectiveness of the treatment team members. This is a good model to approach as the team member satisfies respiratory protection needs along with an added level of full-face protection avoiding face/skin splash contamination.

The choice is yours, and maximum protection for your team members should be considered before the final decision is made. Next month, we will look at the specific steps for the “Donning” of VHF Chemical Protective Clothing

                   Haz Mat Mike

Friday
Sep012017

VHF - 2 Who Should Wear CPC/PPE?

Who should wear CPC/PPE? Does everyone on scene or at the incident site need it? How often ae changes needed? What type of respiratory protection are we talking about? Are there different ensembles’ for different work tasks? Your response must be prepared for all these questions and YOU have to have the answers ahead of time!

All health care professionals who provide direct patient care, all support staff that either cleans the isolation room, handles contaminated used or new supplies, laundry and waste disposal staff workers. Anyone in the lab who handles specimens of any type as well as those transferring these specimens to the lab facility if on site. If off site, proper exterior decontamination must take place before samples are handed off to transporters. Laboratory support staff that cleans lab equipment must also be properly dressed. Security Officers that are responsible for the confinement of exposed patients to the VHF in question. Burial Teams; or funeral facilities that will be handling the bodily remains. Finally, in a rural setting, family members who care for VHF patients.

As you can see this is a much longer list/decontamination needs than a normal hospital treatment plan for the ill. The primary reason is to eliminate the possibility of further “Outbreak” either within your facility or throughout the community.

The two Doctors and one nurse that were transported back to the U.S. were exposed through direct patient contact/fluids. See CNN.com/ebolaresponse2014.

Support Staff who takes part in laundry and waste disposal are at the same elevated risk. VHF can resist environmental conditions for periods of days and still be highly infectious. Their activities can be considered to be of even higher risk, as their equipment procedures may come into contact with totally unprotected individuals passing through the facility for unrelated cases.

Any personnel that work in the Lab or involved in Lab cleaning may be exposed to VHF samples sent for analysis. If your Hospital is a larger facility, with a BSL 4, have them handle the sample analysis they are equipped for this exact type of work.

Security Officers cannot be overlooked, when patients are in the early stages of VHF, their fear of impending death is enormous! They often run in sheer panic. This is exactly what you do not want!! This is how “Outbreaks” are spread throughout the community. Therefore ensembles’ of Level “B” Security Officers are the only ones that will be able to restrain or tackle the patient to return them to a restrained isolation area. Once the VHF becomes more severe, they will quickly become too weak to run or walk anywhere.

Burial Teams or funeral services depending on your situation, also risk heightened infection through VHF corpses and garments. So much so, the second phase of our series is devoted to Burial Teams. The discussion between incineration and burial cross contamination is ongoing, but burial has been used successfully.

Any family member that cares for a VHF patient must go through these procedures OR risk infection themselves; it’s a simple no-nonsense need without exceptions due to the viral, deadly consequence of VHF diseases.

Those who are on-scene or at facility, that are NOT in contact with ANY of the above do not require CPC/PPE. Appreciate, IF they do by accident, they are immediately quarantined and must be isolated for 21 to 30 days per protocol. Extra measures need to be taken to be assured that administration personnel do not become exposed.

CPC/PPE is generally considered “Best Practices” to only be used for periods of eight (8) hours before replacement. In this situation, it is highly unlikely a care giver can work in CPC/PPE for this length of time. This enters in either replacement or laundry systems for CPC/PPE.

Doctors and health care workers seen in the profile report on “Outbreak” in the Frontline examination demonstrate different levels of respiratory protection. While a full Level “B” CPC/PPE ensemble’ requires full SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus), remember that the 29 CFR 1910.120 standards are by definition “ensembles’). This means that the work task function can adjust the “workability” of a Level of Protection to fit the needs of the work task at hand. Truly, since these practices are still held to the standards, work conditions in this type of a response restrict the operation from the use and replenishment of SCBA units and air refilling. With a true Level “B” ensemble’ health care workers would need SCBA units, a five stage cascade unit, and all the training and maintenance crew and equipment that entail a successful operation. As you can see, this would be next to impossible with the resources available in this scenario. Not to mention the extra energy expended of using this equipment by health care workers who are not used to working under fire suppression conditions like Fire Department personnel are. So, this leaves us with an actual modified Level “C” type response. The CPC is splash protective Level “B” wear coupled with Level “C” respiratory protection. This includes the use of filter masks or APR (Air Purifying Respirators). While Haz-Mat norms tell us this practice is risky, again the conditions of the overall work and capabilities ultimately dictate what the responders will have to adapt to. You will also note the lack in some cases of full face splash protection. This is not what we would recommend, but in an imperfect response world sometimes these compromises must be made for the work task at hand to be successful.

Also there are different ensembles’ for different types of work activities. This is normal but must be noted that these workers cannot engage in all work practices, just the ones in which they are outfitted for. The workers seen in the film that are decontaminating the homes of the admitted sick Ebola patients are exhibiting a different level of protection from the patient care workers. Note that their ensemble’ uses Level “C” paper Tyvek suits commonly seen for use when dealing with solid particulates. This is functional as these workers are NOT handling patients or contaminated materials. Their work task is strictly to spray contaminated surfaces with the 1/10 bleach solution and let sit. They are NOT involved in removal of contaminated materials or goods within the home. Since their actions greatly reduce and or eliminate physical contact with the contaminant this level of ensemble’ is appropriate.

Whatever situation your response is in or it takes, these considerations must be pre-planned into your capabilities, resources, manpower, transportation, and command structure. You cannot be prepared for all contingencies (unless you are a virtual army) but you can be prepared for your “Phase” of this type of hazardous material response. Have clear outlines and objectives your Team wants to accomplish before you begin your pre-plan. Then stick within those objectives. Knowing, that if these objectives expand past your “Phase” capabilities your pre-plan will become quickly overwhelmed. If your plan needs expansion, all the elements of cost, equipment, training, manpower, transportation, and other issues will also need to expand. Decide what and how much you can do before you do it.

                 Haz Mat Mike

Tuesday
Aug012017

VHF - 1  VHF/PPE/CPC

This is the first in a continuing series covering the new VHF (Viral Hemorrhagic Fever) Training program that meets and exceeds the standards for Emergency Response Operations set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization). If your organization needs additional information feel free to contact me directly at contactus@hazmatmike.com I will be glad to assist your organization with any issues regarding VHF hazardous materials needs.

Since this program presentation was created for varied response group/organizations, there are a variety of presentations that you can implement to meet your personnel’s needs. Therefore, this month we will outline the concept, and options that are available to your group needs.

Whether or not it is presented in a module, (depending on class parameters/time scheduled) one of the first recommendations I make is for the student to view the news film “Outbreak”. This was originally a news documentary created by the PBS.org group “Frontline”. This group is especially good at placing the entire events that occur in “context”. I recommend to all students that they view this film before class begins. It can be viewed for free at pbs.org/Frontline.

As a result of the 2014 West Africa “Outbreak” their became a need for Emergency Responders to acquire a version of the WHO field manual for Ebola Operations in the field that meets the unique training, equipment, personnel, and operational theater outside of the hospital setting. There are many issues that differ between emergency response personnel from hospital workers that we shall discuss in the coming months’.

At the core of this issue is, when faced with a response to a VHF incident/possibility, how should the emergency responder limit exposure, contamination and public spread? For first responders, the initial reaction becomes that of using PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and CPC (Chemical Protective Clothing) to maximize minimal contact between patient and emergency response personnel. To the emergency responder, this may present an initial hurdle. CPC is generally delegated to hazardous materials responders not necessarily “first responders”. So many response organizations may have to upgrade their first responder Training to include the use of CPC. While PPE in this instance refers primarily to respiratory protection, some emergency response personnel that do not work for a Fire Department may also need additional Training in this equipment. Many Ambulance responders are not required to be familiar with this type of protection. Your own group’s SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedure) will direct you in the proper Training direction. Once these issues have been resolved, we can begin to look at the needed issues to be addressed.

There are six (6) concepts on which the premise of responder, patient, and citizenry protection are based. Each one needs consideration to varying degrees depending on the scope of your organizations function. If you have a large well practiced Team, a slight refresher may only be needed, while a smaller less frequently Trained Team may need a new structure. You can see which best will fit your needs as we progress through the coming months. FYI; this presentation/Technique was created during the incident in 2014 and as yet, its first scheduled presentation is scheduled for September of 2017. Are we ready for the next incident? Probably not, due to the fact that there are over 300 other VHFs which have not yet shown themselves upon the world stage, yikes!

Rule 1];

All contamination stays in the Hot Zone (think restraints & Security Personnel)

Whether you use incident site, Hot Zone, or Exclusion Zone, this site is where the initial infection discovery is made. Additionally, it includes the transportation vehicle to a medical facility or area, and the patient treatment isolation site throughout the infectious site. So we are basically speaking of three (3) separate areas the need treatment or “Decontamination”. Here the goal is total restriction of cross-contamination and destruction of the suspected agent before civilians/emergency responders or hospital worker traffic is allowed to use these areas. Before patients are too sick to move about, they often become scared and will attempt to flee for fear of total isolation. This is where Security forces come into play. As we shall see, they too must be protected and enter into the formula for success in VHF spread of contamination infection.

Rule 2];

DO NOT VIOLATE rule #1

Here is where we get into the dicey realm of forced isolation. There are many social concerns that need debate by the JHA (Jurisdiction Having Authority) that you can imagine and will inevitably have. Whatever decision your group arrives at just remember, violating rule #2 spreads the contamination/disease and increase your response needs which may quickly over-whelm your resources. When this occurs, failure may be imminent for your organization.

 

Rule 3];

VHF is a SPLASH Contamination/Exposure

This means that for complete responder protection and NO cross-contamination a Full Level “B” response is required. Nothing short of this shall do. A complete list of the Level “B” ensemble’ can be found in other archived articles at www.hazmatmike.com please contact me if your needs are greater, I will gladly assist you. SOME tweaking may have to function depending on your particular response and can be done with respiratory protection. But this is a tricky issue and should only be attempted with great care and due diligence by your EM (Emergency Manager). Alterations to SPLASH protective garments and ensemble’ items will result in personnel contamination and infection. Note that in the film “Outbreak” by pbs.org “Frontline”, there were alterations when JOB function was changed. This is important to note as not all responders shall be handling direct patients or contaminated wastes. When considering ensemble’s please consider every individual job function BEFORE making adjustments to the wearer’s ensemble. This is best practices for Hazardous Materials Technicians.

Rule 4];

Decontamination is a way of THINKING, more than a process!

Every movement in the Decontamination process must be precise, carefully completed and thoroughly managed by a decon officer. This person can be someone familiar with “their” process and simply watch the decon movements of the individual performing the process. What the operator can easily miss an independent viewer will not. When this occurs, the process must be stopped and the problem or missed area re-decontaminated at that point. This is a labor intensive procedure, but the only way to be sure that the process has been successful and NO contamination is allowed to leave the decontamination corridor. If a line process is implemented, this will enable better viewing and better decontamination for those units that infrequently practice this art form. DRY Decon should NOT be used in a VHF incident.

Rule 5];

VHF is the perfect Haz-Mat (cannot see, smell, or hear) only requires one (1) exposure

Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHF) are lethal agents that have an incubation/isolation period to determine infection of between 21 to 30 days. Isolation for any worker exposed is mandatory and needs to be planned if one or more of your Team members become exposed. Where will they go? Who will replace them? How will you manage their needs and family concerns? All these elements and more need to be pre-planned BEFORE incidents occur.

Rule 6];

There will always be cross-contamination (line process reduces)

There was cross contamination in West Africa incident in 2014 and the U.S. wound up with three patients shipped back to American facilities. The concern of spread of contamination in our country was high for quite a period of time. Again, the “line-process” of decontamination does assist in the reduction of cross-contamination, but does not eliminate the possibility of viral spread.  

As you will discover in the coming months, the core of this presentation/Training is the decontamination process. The challenge shall be for your organization to pre-plan the adaptations needed for the decontamination “system” to fit your response situation. If like most responders, you do not have portable isolation buildings, this shall be the challenge before your Team.

Join us next month when we look at “Who should wear CPC/PPE?”

                Haz Mat Mike

 

 

Saturday
Jun102017

Foam Storage & Compatibility for Non-Fluorinated Foams, Gels, and Powders

There are many issues needing review for firefighting Foams when moving from fluorinated to the new non-fluorinated versions. Storage in existing tanks previously dedicated to fluorinated products, intrinsic “workability” of the tanks structure, volume enhancements needed for plant expansion, pump capacity and lines, exterior seals to environment, and automated monitoring updates. But let’s start with the basics.

As always, long term storage of various types of Foam concentrates mixed together is not recommended. Due to chemistry differences, one can never be sure changes detrimental to appliances and bubble formation will not occur under changing environmental conditions. Since conditions vary, this practice as a general rule is discouraged. Foam storage tank material can only be accurately assessed by your Foam concentrate manufacturer. Important Note: Failure to install the correct tank materials that come into direct contact with the Foam concentrate in storage can result in contamination and performance issues in the final Finished Foam application.

Fluorinated Foam concentrates are excellent firefighting foams, but are biologically persistent and therefore have negative environmental impacts. For a number of years these compounds have used long-chain Fluoro-surfactants causing this issue. In 2006 the EPA established a voluntary stewardship program to reduce the use of these “long-chain” elements because of the bio-accumulative toxic problems. By substituting “short-chain” Fluoro-surfactant elements in Foam, 40% more volume was required to meet UL (Underwriters Laboratory) UL 162 standards for firefighting. Thus, this trade-off was not positive. The solution was to create a halogen free Foam concentrate. The creation of “Green” Foams for firefighting and hazardous material vapor suppression satisfied both issues. The resulting product created firefighting performance and environmental compatibility.

The initial question for storage sites is to replace old with new or, use existing up first? Cost for business minds is always foremost, so let’s start from “after” the older Fluorinated Foam concentrates are gone. To insure “trouble-free” storage and future application during an incident there are number of elements to evaluate. These range from tank integrity, location, volume, pumps, transport lines, exterior seals, all the way to automated monitoring.

Once your storage tank has been emptied and is free from all halogenated Foam concentrates a thorough interior tank cleaning and inspection should be considered. Not only will a power-washing remove remaining cross-contaminants from the older product, but it affords an acute inspection of the interior of the tank walls and bottom. Check all interior surfaces for corrosion and tank course thickness against the original designed needs. If these measurements fall below your standards replace the damaged tank course shell (section). Do not forget to check the proper conical shape of the tank bottom as well as material thickness. Is the slope the same? Are there any indentations from load or pressure over the years? New advances in ultra-sound technology now have the ability to evaluate tank wall thickness due to corrosion or damage from the outside walls of your existing tank. This should limit any dangerous confined space entry to evaluation of the tank bottom interior. Any deviations found from the original design/construction should be properly replaced or serviced by a storage tank fabricator.

Once corrections have been made, consider your site. Storage tank location is critical to both loading and unloading. Over the years have your plant facilities grown? Is there a more centralized position to newly added fire hazards? Foam storage tank re-placement may benefit your facility if it is of equal distance to all fire hazards. A long transfer of product could be interrupted during an emergency in multiple places that are impinged by fire. Can the plumbing be more protected if placed under ground? These fail-safe operations should be considered before final placement is made. The goal is to have a system that cannot fail under any disaster situation. Is tank movement a possibility? Designed portable tank(s) could be moved to new platforms accommodating the facilities site, depending on projected growth and future plans. Should you increase Foam storage tank volume to match site/hazard growth? If your hazard volume has increased, you must be sure that you have enough Foam concentrate on hand to deliver to multiple tanks that are involved in fire. A change in storage tank location may be for you. What about needed upgrades in transfer Foam concentrate plumbing? If hazard volume has increased, do you need more or a larger supply transfer line(s) from storage tank to your induction process? Does this need adapt to newly constructed roadways or improvements? If roadways are in the plans, make sure that your system does not need to be off-line while road construction is being completed. This can often take your system out-of-service for long periods creating extensive unsafe protection issues. Loading areas may now be in the way of other plant operations? In the advent of a major fire situation, is your storage tank loading area free from plant operation obstructions allowing frequent replenishment of incoming Foam concentrate? All of these issues should be considered before final storage tank placement is decided. Once your storage tank is completed you will have to work around any of these problems, during an emergency.

Once these issues have been worked out, be sure to check for the appropriate exterior tank hatch seal material of your Foam concentrate storage tank. This should have been done on a bi- or annual basis from sample testing. According to your facilities SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) a sample of concentrate stored should be taken from your bulk storage tank and sent to the Foam Company’s lab for analysis. This procedure informs you of the intrinsic safety of the exterior tank seal against environmental affects or contaminants.

Auto-monitoring leak detection is an excellent upgrade for needed future tank leak/security issues. With automated leak detection in place, an operating facility can now have real-time data analysis of tank integrity and quick response to any leakage minimizing Foam concentrate product loss. Automated tank leak detection is the best way to assess problems as they happen.

When storing large volumes of Foam concentrate, bulk storage accomplishes two (2) main goals.

1] Eliminates the need for on duty emergency response personnel to load and transport five (5) gallon containers to the induction site, and

2] The pump transfer, Eduction, and application are immediate and unmanned yielding a fast response and a safer one for emergency response personnel.

As flammables must have an automated Foam application system in place anyway, an additional automated system for Foam concentrate supply to the induction system just makes sound sense.

Before the Foam concentrate is loaded into your tank, consideration of proper exterior ventilation and tank opening seals should be evaluated. Improper seals on containers of Foam concentrate are the same as leaving a can of paint open. Foam manufacturers have a complete system for proper sealing of Foam concentrate storage tanks. If yours does not, you should change Foam manufacturers. NFPA 1901 has storage tank recommendations that will assist this process. There are four (4) basic components that should be present in any Foam storage tank system;

1] Minimal air to concentrate interface, is the concept of always attempting to keep your storage tank as full as possible. This concept minimizes air to concentrate interface, resulting in no or minimal “skinning over” on the concentrate surface. Drying or “skinning over” in this manner will negatively affect all appliances and finished Foam application.

2] Inner protective screen, this shielding of the raw Foam concentrate from particle contamination that can occur whenever sampling or general human monitoring is done. Objects of contamination are restricted from entering the concentrate tank and negatively “tainting” the product.

3] Air tight hatches, must be sealed with the appropriate seal material such as Buna N or an EDPM gasket composition. Check with your manufacturer for the proper gasket material to install.

4] Lastly, a pressure/vacuum relief device permanently affixed to the exterior of the air tight hatch cover. This enables the tank to adjust automatically to changes in pressure or vacuum when filling or withdrawing Foam concentrate from the tank. This device should only allow air movement with natural pressure changes due to temperature. No direct openings to the atmosphere are allowed, such as overflow tubes or other open pathways to the environment.

 Storage is critical to deliver a quality finished Foam blanket for the successful outcome of your emergency incident, always consider your storage. 

         Haz Mat Mike

Monday
May012017

Industrial Hazardous Material Decontamination

Industrial Haz Mat Decontamination

          There are many points to consider when coordinating a Hazardous Materials Response “Team” for your facility. A large consideration is the module of  “Decontamination.” What kind of equipment shall you use? Who will be the responders? How can you design this operation for “return-to-normal” for business operations in the shortest time period? How will you store the resulting waste short-term? How do I motivate hazardous material workers in this field? What template should be used to align your “system” as to how it operates? What safety considerations need to be accounted for?

For Industrial facility hazardous material workers, when considering decontamination the process must be simple and thorough. How the worker responds is of grave consideration when designing an optimum system for facility functions. If your workers are not designated and specifically employed for “Hazardous Waste Operations” this influences many operational procedures you may want to use. Like any other profession, the more frequent an employee performs the task, the better he will become. If performance is seldom, grave problems can arise. Hence the need to keep procedures safe and simplistic. Decontamination systems that require less training while fully decontaminating the personnel and “affected” areas/equipment, will serve infrequent responders best.  

The bench marks for most hazardous spill decontamination systems are the universal solvents of soap and water. This of course rules out any water reactive substances that you may use in industrial applications. For these, a more considered and diverse solvent “system” must be designed by the management leadership. One common “system” outside hazardous materials responders like to use on industrial sites is the facilities decontamination “safety showers.” These are commonly placed by industry throughout the plant at locations where workers who become accidentally “contaminated” by spills or processes can quickly use them to wash off toxic contamination. Most, (but all should be by law) are drained into plant chemical holding tanks for later removal by a hazardous waste vendor of the facility choice. Note, that it is illegal to drain diluted hazardous materials into storm or combination municipal waste systems. This is a clear violation of environmental laws. If your plants’ system does NOT drain into a proper chemical storage tank separated from non-hazardous waste streams, this must be corrected before using your safety showers for hazardous material decontamination.

The limitation of use for safety showers is usually location. Sometimes the distance between spill sites and decontamination/safety showers is too great of a distance for the response Team. The solution equipment wise is to adapt one of these safety showers to mobile use. One we used at an industrial site was very well set-up in a properly planned manner. A metal “HAWS” safety shower was mounted to a pallet sized spill containment skid which allowed for transportation throughout the facility by company high-low operators. It was mounted with back-flow drains for use outside the plant structure in inclement weather. All that was required is heated water. The entire system required the unit, water intake line, and “if” a prolonged incident, a discharge line to empty the containment pallet when full. Ours’ had a portable pump to transfer the contents into drums when it became full, very slick. Training for set-up by plant personnel was straightforward and minimal, use of a shower is universal and equipment costs are minimal providing a versatile and capable decontamination system. Additionally, untrained new employees, or plant guests are still able to use this system “shower” in the advent of an emergency. Whatever system you design should be as simplistic as this one for positive decontamination techniques and ease of use. These types of solutions demonstrate strong leadership within and by the Team Leader.

What employees are to be designated for this work? If you use out-side contractors your planning is minimal. Their organization is responsible and capable for all elements of an operation. Your only concern is giving them access and response time. Response times can vary depending on location and this may not fit well into your “return-to-business” operational time periods. This is the primary reason for on-site facility responders. If your employees are regular site workers with daily tasks to complete, removal of them to answer a response call may cause production problems. Many facilities hesitate to send these employees off-site for needed classes and on-going training due to the issues associated with temporarily replacing them. Over-time, schedule re-configurations, and other needs regarding these employees are often taken too high in consideration vs. the information and needed training they will receive from up-dated training or re-fresher courses . If your employees specifically exist to handle plant emergencies, the issue may be which one of your facilities are they currently located at? Is there a response time issue in arriving at your site location? All of these items need to be evaluated BEFORE you designate who will respond from your facility. By narrowing down he needed operational priorities, you will be able to determine which choice of workers will best suit your company’s needs.

“Returning-to-Business” needs are understandably one of the most primary concerns for business management and sometimes Team Leaders.  For a truly sustainable result at any spill or incident, the primary focus MUST be safe operations that solve ALL issues resulting from the incident. Once your Team has successfully mitigated the incident, check all involved and ancillary equipment connected to or nearby the incident site. This provides needed maintenance and often eliminates future production shut-downs due to a smaller issue that could have also been corrected at the time of the spill. Once you are down, USE that time to correct ALL issues is much more cost efficient than having to shut-down “again” for another small maintenance task. Many managers do not appreciate this concept, so it will have to be sold on its true merits of making the overall business operation more profitable in the long run. Once these needs have been met, you will find fewer shut-downs over the years and greater production benefits for your business. These profit increases need to be recognized that they exist because of your emergency response Team. So the sustainability of your corporate Team actually increases your bottom line, good to remember and appreciate when response Team needs are required.

Waste storage from a hazardous materials incident is important to pre-plan. If your facility does not have an “EPA 90 day short term storage license” you have 96hrs from the onset of the initial incident to have all spill waste properly packaged and off your site through the use of a properly licensed EPA hazardous waste transported. This is often the case, as these licenses frequently cause local site ordinance issues with the surrounding neighborhood. So, refreshing your contacts with your local hazardous waste transportation contractor is always a good idea. From experience it is always nice to see a friendly face at 0300hrs, than an adversary during a hazardous materials incident.

The motivation of your response Team working culture is critical to Team success.  If workers are volunteering to perform these tasks (as most are) an appropriate incentive must materialize for them to remain interested in the corporate Team. Often this is NOT additional monies but something else. The Team Leader which is often from a management position must figure out “what-the-team-wants”. It may range from shift preference all the way to better recognition, but whatever it “IS”, for your group, by delivering it or moving forward in that overall direction will strengthen the Team interest and solidify success. The best way to research and strengthen this bond/goal is to host frequent Team Meetings where important worker issues can be remedied. This effort demonstrates corporate interest in the “Team” as opposed to just “getting-what-they-want”. Team “leadership” is a mutual forward progression for improvement, whereas management equates to local control. Contemplation of these concepts is essential for a positive Team/corporate relationship to flourish.

If you are searching for the correct ‘Template” for overall Decontamination organization an excellent source lays in 29 CFR 1910.1200(q) (2) (vii).

   “Decontamination means the removal of hazardous substances from employees and their equipment to the extent necessary to preclude the occurrence of foreseeable adverse health affects.”

This is the Gold standard and should serve as the master template at all facilities in all countries throughout the globe. This standard affords the safest concept and yet affords the greatest leniency or adaptation to its guidelines. All USA response teams follow this ruling just for this reason.  This standard was written for consolidation of response practices. By doing this, any Team following these guidelines is capable of functioning with any mutual aid organization for mass disaster incidents. When considering the current political/terrorist climate, it is comforting to know that all responders to your facility shall cooperatively blend, when working on large problems.

At a minimum, whichever decontamination format you and your team decide on, the minimum safety considerations should be implemented.

1] Respiratory Protection

2] CPC (Chemical Protective Clothing) Ensemble’  

3] Proper Equipment (Decontamination System)

For whichever task your Team is slated to perform, they MUST have the proper equipment. This does not mean every piece of equipment in the cadre’, but does mean the equipment necessary to accomplish the task safely. In other words, equipment must enable the worker to safely carry out his/her duties. If you are going to move 500 gallon totes on-site, you have to have a high-low. Physical labor must be provided with mechanical equipment to render safe operations for assigned tasks at hand. When these concepts focused on, corporate Hazardous Material Response Team success greatly increases.

                Haz Mat Mike

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