Safety and Chemicals

Working with ChemicalsWhether you work in a laboratory setting or another location where you need to use chemicals on a daily basis at work, you need to make sure those chemicals are well controlled and safely contained.

Sometimes people who work with chemicals daily become complacent about those chemicals and the damage they can cause. From being able to burn through materials and skin to those that can cause respiratory nightmares and severe illnesses, or headaches and dizziness, chemicals are not something that should be treated without a lot of thought and care.

Know What You’re Dealing With

The first thing you should know about the chemicals that are in your workplace is what they are and what hazards they present. Depending on the chemical, the threats from it can be very different.

It is vital that there is a list of all the chemicals that are being used as well as the threats they pose and how to deal with any potential accident, such as a spill.

Most chemicals should be accompanied by an MSD (Material Safety Data Sheet), a form outlining the hazards of the chemical, how it should be stored and transported, and information pertinent to emergency personnel (First Aid Officers, Fire Fighters, Hazardous Material Crews, etc.).

The MSD’s often cover things like:

  • name of the substance
  • name of company and contact details who supplies the product
  • other details of the substance (eg. molecular details, other known names of the product, etc.)
  • physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.)
  • fire fighting information
  • toxicity
  • health effects
  • first aid (skin contact, eye contact, etc.)
  • reactivity to the environment and other chemicals
  • storage, transport and disposal details
  • recommended protective equipment while using substance
  • procedures to follow if a spill or leak occurs

Safety Process

If you are the employer, it is important that you make sure each of your employees are well versed on the items they may come in contact with and how to work with them intelligently.  Additionally, they need to have a clear plan of action in case something goes wrong and there is an accident. Without a safety process in place, a situation that could have been easily controlled and mitigated can become a major accident leading to injuries and damage.

In a worst-case scenario, does everyone in the workplace know what to do? This is something that should be second nature, not something that has to be thought about. When it comes to toxic chemicals, seconds in reaction can be the difference between life and death. Make sure all employees have regular drills and reminders of the emergency procedures so they are always clear of what actions to take.

Do you have the correct chemical hazard signage around the workplace? Do you have signage for staff to put up in case of a spill or leak?

Safety Gear

In addition to knowing safety procedures and how to deal with chemicals in the workplace, your employees also need to have the right safety gear to use to assure they are safe when in contact with these chemicals.

Such gear can include gloves, protective eyewear (goggles), protective clothing (aprons, correct shoes, lab coats, etc.) and even respirators depending on the chemicals they will be in contact with. Make sure the appropriate gear is available for all workers.

Additionally, it is vital to regularly check these items for signs of wear or break down and repair and replace them as needed.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

Comments (1)

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  1. Les Henley says:

    And don;t forget the Saftey Process should ensure that:
    1: EVERY container is properly labelled and
    2: NO non-food substance shoul dbe stored in a food container – eg: oils and similar in coke bottles is a no-no.

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