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Safety Management Insights

How to Take Proper Precautions Around Chemicals in the Workplace

Posted by Doug Shoemaker on Dec 1, 2019 2:27:13 PM




Extremely Hazardous Substances, or EPSs, are in use everywhere, not only in our homes but in all manner of industries, from manufacturing to farming. The EPA has set out an EPS list, outlining the most dangerous chemicals. However, the risk is always there whenever chemicals are around. A comprehensive familiarization program for you and your employees is necessary for a wider understanding of hazardous chemicals and their effects in the workplace.

Train Your Employees

According to Brauns Law, chemical exposure is one of the many reasons for workers’ compensation claims. Apart from a few limited instances, most cases of on-the-job injury from chemical exposure will carry the right to workers' compensation. This is independent of whether the employer or the co-workers were at fault. Simple proof of injury is enough. This is why you should take all precautions necessary beforehand. Train your employees so they know how to safely handle chemicals and mitigate risks from working around them. A complete hazardous substances awareness program will cover such important topics as handling and storage, long-term warehousing, transport protocols and response to emergencies. It also improves supervisor and employee understanding of chemical-safety regulations and best practices and can be customized and structured according to your facility’s processes.

Use Safety Gear

Use all the right safety gear when handling chemicals: gloves, masks, labeled containers, etc. According to the AgriSafe Network, PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, is an important factor in chemical safety. Although it is considered the last form of defense in a complete safety program, it is essential when doing work in close proximity. Types of hazards can come in various forms, including dust, fumes, gases or liquids from such sources as batteries, pesticides, exhaust fumes, paint removers or pesticides. These can affect the respiratory system and eyes and skin, resulting in headaches, burning throat or eyes, blistering and rashes, and even long-term or permanent damage or impairment. Among the various types of approved chemical PPE are aprons, gloves, coveralls, face shields, glasses capable of chemical resistance and respiratory devices. The type of PPE used should be chosen according to the hazard type. It should also be usable by anyone, kept in working condition and used only by qualified personnel.

Additional Precautions

According to the Health and Safety Administration, these are further measures you can take to ensure workplace safety when working around hazardous substances:

  • Close-at-hand information and supervision
  • Outlining which chemicals will react and how to keep them in a stable condition
  • Labeling chemicals clearly according to standard safety indicators and warning symbols
  • Not exceeding safe exposure limits
  • Updated register and manifest for new and discontinued chemicals
  • Providing spill-containment measures
  • Getting updated SDS, or Safety Data Sheets, from the suppliers and manufacturers
  • Identifying potential sources of ignition and maintaining required firefighting devices

Chemicals can possess numerous hazardous and unstable properties. These should be fully understood before introducing them to a work environment and making them accessible to employees. Apart from workers’ compensation liability, regulatory systems also come into play and will need to be met with. Provide a safe and stable workplace by taking all measures necessary to deal with hazardous chemicals.

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