HazMat emergency response includes the procedures and regulations that are aimed at the treatment of those who were exposed to contamination with the hazardous materials. The emergency standards, such as HazWOPER, are necessary at the workplaces in the industrial or chemical organizations where employees face significant risks of being exposed to contamination.
The numerous HazMat emergencies and HazMat victim response standards exist. They include the regulations and plans to follow in different emergency scenarios and with the different audience. For example, NFPA 473 standard is elaborated for the most severe cases of contamination and consists of regulations for the emergency medical care personnel to provide the proper treatment for the victim “at emergency site and during transportation to hospital” (Gunderson, Helikson, & Heffner, 2014, p. 44).
Many of the standards, such as Hazard Communication OSHA 1910.1200, Medical and First Aid OSHA 1910.151, etc., are elaborated for all the workplace employees and provide them with the training and the emergency response requirements. In the workplaces that are of a hazardous character, all the staff members must know the basic safety rules in case of emergency and must follow all the decontamination regulations.
There are five types of decontamination practices exist nowadays: emergency decontamination, gross decontamination, mass decontamination, technical decontamination, and definitive decontamination (Gunderson, Helikson, & Heffner, 2014). The first category, emergency decontamination, deals with the individual cases of workplace contamination. During the emergency and the gross contamination procedures, the emergency responders attempt to wash off as many contaminants as possible to reduce the possibility of the further contamination before the next emergency procedures will take place. When a large number of people are contaminated, the mass decontamination takes place. “Technical decontamination of HazMat victims typically involves significantly more surface rinsing than occurs in a workplace emergency shower” (Gunderson, Helikson, & Heffner, 2014, p. 42).
In these types of procedures, responders use cleansing soaps, brushes, etc. Technical decontamination is more thorough than the first two types. However, the most severe cases must involve the definitive decontamination procedures that include the hospital treatment.
“Definitive treatment varies with the severity of exposure, the hazard of the substance, positive identification of the substance and the treating physician’s diagnosis” (Gunderson, Helikson, & Heffner, 2014, p. 42). This kind of treatment can be comprised of merely the observation and evaluation of the victim’s state or the advanced medical decontamination. However, in case the early decontamination was properly fulfilled, it is possible to avoid the severe negative impacts. Therefore, it is important for every employer to implement the emergency response programs at the workplace.
The solid emergency response program must consist of the tested and well-functioning hardware, such as showers and the first-aid supplies; the proper provision of information regarding the emergency procedures and plans; a well settled communication between the emergency responders and employees as well as the communication with the external bodies that provide medical and emergency aid; a good coordination of the emergency medical services, and the trainings that help the responders to take appropriate and precise actions in case of emergency (Gunderson, Helikson, & Heffner, 2014). The compliance with all the rules and regulations in the provision of the emergency decontamination helps to save time and reduce the negative impacts caused by contamination. Even a small delay in emergency actions caused by the lack of competence or any other factors puts the life of a victim under a risk.
The types of decontamination procedures are dependent on the level of the toxicity of the substances. Either way, the medical care specialists claim that thorough and on-time victim decontamination is of greatest importance. First of all, it is essential for the prevention of the further toxic contaminants proliferation. It is observed that the communication issues are the main factors that interfere with the proper aid provision. For avoiding the incompetent behavior of the workplace emergency responders, they need to attend the educational and training programs. It will help them to act effectively when the professional emergency medical care specialists arrive.
The proper decontamination of victims is vital, and, in some cases, it helps to save the victim’s life. The proper decontamination supports the prevention of the secondary contamination and toxicants dissemination that can negatively impact the people locating in the emergency area and its surroundings. The well-trained emergency responders need to make sure that decontamination processes are effectively accomplished. The area and hardware must pass through the detailed examination. Since, the emergency respondents face the risk of becoming the “additional victims,” they need to take all the possible precautionary measures to ensure their own safety while performing the procedures (Gunderson, Helikson, & Heffner, 2014, p. 45).
The prevention of the HazMat contamination is essential for the safety at the workplace. Nevertheless, the incidents often take place, and the personnel needs to know how to behave properly in such cases. Training programs and education help to raise the awareness regarding this issue. The organizations need to pay a greater attention to the training of the workplace emergency responders to ensure the high level of their competence. The efficiency of the decontamination procedures at workplace depends on the responders’ qualification to a significant extent. The efficiency of the early decontamination processes plays the crucial role in the human health and the environmental safety sustenance.
Gunderson, S., Helikson, C., & Heffner, M. (2014). HazMat Emergencies: Decontamination & Victim Chain of Survival. Professional Safety, 59(3), 40-46. Web.