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Jul 2013

In this series, I share with you my thoughts on Why Safety Is An Issue For Most Companies. One of the Things We Must Address If We Want To Improve Our Safety Performance is the importance of proper and SAFE testing of safety equipment.


Where’s That Umbrella When You Need It!

(World Class Safety)

Picture: Unilever's solution for safe testing of a safety shower


One of the fundamentals of looking after your safety equipment, such as firefighting gear, trips and alarms, lifting gear, lifts and hoists, evacuation gear, breathing apparatus, safety showers, and some PPE, amongst others, is to inspect and test that the equipment is, indeed, in working order.

Why do it?

Well, apart from the obvious, i.e. your life might depend on it, doing this testing has the effect of increasing the awareness of the importance of the safety equipment. It is like a parachute. When you need it, you want to be 110% sure that it will open. No guarantee with ‘return the faulty one’, no questions asked, just 110% assurance.

How to do it?

Consider the safety shower – like the kind in use at chemical plants.

How does one test a safety shower without getting drenched? You can turn this one whichever way you like. Invariably, where SAFE testing of equipment has not been designed into the operating process / procedure, there is no other way but to activate the shower by actually stepping onto the plate in order to see the water spraying out of the shower heads …

Where is that umbrella when you need it!

Let me share a World Class example with you.

At Unilever’s Maydon Wharf plant, there is a testing jig which gets hooked onto the shower. By depressing the long lever, the shower is activated and the person doing the testing can thus stay completely dry. (See photo above.)

A SIMPLY SMART and practical solution!


In the world of skydiving, the parachutes are either packed by the mothers and wives of the jumpers, or by the jumpers themselves. One could say that the person who has a vested interest in the parachute opening when it’s supposed to is the one making sure that it really will open. Do you know who packs your parachutes?

Identify three of the most critical safety systems or equipment in your plant or process. Take a close look. Are these clearly identified and marked? Who does the testing? HOW often and HOW are these safety systems or equipment actually tested? I’m not talking about a simulation or fire-drill type exercise! This inspection should include the records of tests, with the findings and corrective actions signed and dated.

If a real test is not possible, then go back to the drawing board and change the design so that testing is possible. If this is still not an option, then other solutions like redundancy or back up safety devices need to be installed. This is a fundamental in process safety.

Trust me, if you take this advice seriously, you are bound to find some nasty surprises.


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