The Challenge of Responding to a Hazardous Material Emergency and Treating Its Victims

Mar 03, 2014, 08:00 ET from American Society of Safety Engineers

DES PLAINES, Ill., March 3, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The moves onsite safety professionals make to decontaminate a manufacturing chemical spill involving employee exposure and the information they provide emergency responders will determine how fast that employee receives medical attention. 

Hazardous material spill protocols mandate that emergency responders secure the area before treating victims. Knowing how to manage that against standard first aid procedures can make all the difference in ensuring victims receive timely medical care, write authors Scott Gunderson, Cameron Helikson and Michael Heffner in an article titled, "HazMat Emergencies" in the March issue of the ASSE Journal Professional Safety.

Early notification and emergency decontamination are vital, since every delay in "starting emergency decontamination allows hazardous materials to injure exposed employees by burning, absorption or inhalation," the authors write. "The span between these first and second steps should be as short as possible, and preferably done simultaneously by multiple employees and/or workplace emergency response team members."

The authors also said information on the chemical spill will help emergency room personnel to avoid secondary contamination, which may happen when clothes or medical equipment are mishandled. "It is unwise to accept a contaminated patient into a transport unit or to be unsure of the level of decontamination performed," according to the article. "A poor decision in the field can have significant ramifications at the door of the hospital."

Overall, the authors recommend safety professionals preplan for these events, including tours and training drills between site and emergency responders so they can learn more about the facility, its hazards and the abilities of the safety professionals.

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SOURCE American Society of Safety Engineers