Dressing to Spill

Decontamination of a spill victim – the old ‘Fifteen minutes under the shower, fifteen minutes in the eyewash’ – is a big factor in keeping people alive.  Some studies show fatality reduced to a third by proper decontamination.  One important and oft unconsidered part of decontamination is getting people into new clothes.

If someone has just poured phenol or something equally anti-social all over their top, he needs to get out of that top, otherwise he’ll have effectively a sponge of nasty stuff constantly seeping poison into his skin.

This means that you need to have spare clothes on standby in case things go horribly wrong.  My advice is to buy jogging clothes.  They are unisex, bulky and sturdy (the point of emergency clothes is to preserve modesty and give comfort while rushing the victim to emergency care, not to win any fashion statements).  For my lab I picked up two sets, consisting of trousers, t-shirt and long-sleeved sweater, in sizes medium and extra large (again, fitting is entirely optional – coverage is) for about seventy Singapore dollars.

The other thing to consider is what happens if the victim is opposite sex to you?  Remembering that different cultures have very different attitudes to modesty.  Even someone level headed may panic when he feels his skin peeling off under strong acid.  It’s important that you select chaperones and helpers from both sexes in the lab, who can calm a victim down, get them decontaminated and get them changed.

It’s an easy additional control to install, but it could save someone’s life someday.



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