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Tepid water for safety showers: why it's important and how to maintain it

When it comes to worksites where there is a risk of workers being exposed to dangerous chemicals or materials, safety showers are critical and potentially lifesaving pieces of equipment. From Cork to Dublin, from Donegal to Waterford, safety showers are used all over Ireland in industries stretching from pharma to food production to mining, among others. However, for safety showers to be effective, certain requirements must be met. For instance, water temperature is a key factor that needs to be considered. The water supplied to safety showers is required to be what is known as ‘tepid’ to comply with the European EN15141 standard and protect users of safety showers from further injury. Let us take a look at what that means.

What is the definition of ‘tepid’ water when it comes to safety showers in Ireland?

Under European standard EN15141, ‘tepid’ water means that the water must be of a controlled temperature between 15c and 37c.

Why do safety showers need to be supplied with water within this temperature range?

If the temperature exceeds this range, there is of course the risk of scalding to the user. Not only can this cause burns to the skin, but it can also cause the dilation of blood vessels, which can draw blood away from vital organs and cause cardiovascular strain, not ideal in any situation let alone an already critical one. The heat can also cause the skin to absorb chemicals quicker, again, not something you want in a situation when you’re trying to decontaminate someone who has been exposed to harmful chemicals; the last thing you want a safety shower to do is hinder a situation further. There’s also the comfort factor to consider, for if the water is unbearably hot the user is likely to instinctively leave the safety shower unit before full decontamination can take place (it is recommended that users exposed to chemicals stay in the safety shower for at least 15 minutes; obviously you don’t want someone immersed in scalding water for that length of time.

Conversely, if the temperature of a safety shower’s water supply is below this range, different risks are presented to the user. Perhaps the most obvious if the risk of hypothermia due to freezing. Just as with scalding water, the comfort factor comes into play. As mentioned, for safety showers to be effective, the user needs to stay in them for at least 15 minutes, as such it is not ideal for the shower water temperature to be unbearably cold for that length of time.

Put simply, failing to maintain a tepid water supply for safety shower units not only reduces their effectiveness, it can actually exacerbate an already dangerous situation.

What are the problems Safety Managers face around maintaining a tepid water supply to safety showers in Ireland?

There are of course challenges to maintaining a tepid water supply to on-site safety showers, distance and size of worksite being common ones. Local climate conditions can be a factor too, as can the time of year (for example, water supplies to safety showers are risk of freezing during cold winter months).

How can Safety Managers combat the challenges associated maintaining a tepid water supply for their safety showers?

Fortunately, there are solutions available to help maintain a tepid water supply to on-site safety showers. Safety Managers/Engineers should consider these when it comes to buying or hiring a new safety shower unit. Let’s take a look at some of these…

Emergency tank showers are designed to hold a supply of water for a given time. For instance, the Hughes 1500L tank fed safety shower unit is designed to maintain a flow of water for 15 minutes, which is compliant with the EN standard relevant in Ireland.

Temperature-controlled safety showers do exactly as the name suggests, ensuring that the water supplied is tempered to the appropriate temperature before reaching the shower occupant.

You can also get 'jacketed' and insulated safety showers to help maintain the temperature in cold conditions. Likewise, you can get safety showers fitted with cooling equipment to maintain tepid water in hot environments.

As an authorised agent and distributor for Hughes Safety Showers in Ireland, Gaslines Ltd. can supply any of the above types of safety units for hire or purchase. We have offices in Cork and Arklow, but deliver safety shower units to customers all over Ireland including Dublin.

Our team have decades of experience in the safety shower industry, and if you have any questions at all please feel free to get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help and advise.

Call us on 021 484 1370 (Cork) or 0402 32116 (Arklow) click on 'Contact' at the top of this page.

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