About every 30 seconds, a worker dies of toxic exposure.
Business safety practices have become more important than ever. More and more people are unwilling to work for companies that do not prioritize safety. Consumers have also become eco-friendly and are looking to do business with companies that care about the environment.
What is a Chemical Hazard and How Can My Business Handle Them Safely?
If your business handles hazardous products and chemicals, it’s a given that they pose a potential risk for your employees and possibly customers as well.
Proper management can help mitigate these risks for the business. So, what is a chemical hazard? In this guide, we’ll explore what a chemical hazard is and how your business can handle chemicals safely.
What Is a Chemical Hazard?
Any chemical in either solid, liquid, or gas state that can cause harm is considered hazardous and dangerous. Hazard means the inherent properties that give these chemicals the ability to cause harm to either people or the environment.
Exposure is the frequency and the number of chemical substances that come into contact with workers. Risk is the possibility of harm arising from that exposure.
Every day, employees across the US are exposed to chemicals and hazardous toxic substances that pose a wide array of health risks.
These risks include irritation, sensitization, carcinogenicity, corrosion, reactivity, flammability, among others. To safely handle chemical hazards in the workplace, your business needs to establish safety rules. Here are some strategies you can implement.
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Have a Designated Area for Hazardous Chemicals
One of the most important things you can do to manage hazardous chemicals in your workplace is to have a designated area to manage them.
The area needs to be clearly labeled so that’s anyone working there knows what’s inside. Hazardous chemicals or substances need to be stored away from employees who are not equipped to handle them.
Also, make sure that chemicals that react with other chemicals are not kept close to each other. This area should have proper drainage and ventilation in case of a breach.
Depending on the chemicals used, you may also need exhaust vents in the work area. Adequate ventilation in both the work area and the storage rooms necessary. It’ll ensure the air quality is sufficient for all workers and eliminate or minimize inhalation risks.
Train Your Employees
The next best thing you can do is offer training and resources to your employees. Never assume that your workers know how to handle various chemicals. They may not know how to respond to chemical spills. Employees should go through thorough training on standard operating procedures.
It’s also important for you to post information where everyone can access it. More so if some of the chemicals you deal with require special or specific handling instructions. Your employees need to understand the different ways they could be exposed to chemicals.
Teach them how to use safety equipment and safety gear. Train them on proper procedures. It’ll help them avoid ingestion, absorption, inhalation, or injection of the chemicals.
Label All Chemical Clearly
Labeling chemicals or hazardous substances can save lives. All chemical containers should have clear labels. Especially ones that look alike and would confuse even experts.
Anyone handling these substances should be able to tell that the chemicals in the containers are hazardous. It would prevent accidents that would otherwise stem from improper disposal or incorrect mixing of chemicals. You also need to make material safety data sheets (MSDS) accessible.
Before working on any chemicals, all your employees should consult with your safety data sheets. It’ll ensure that they follow the right safety procedures.
Which chemicals require labeling? Chemicals usually come with labels, but if you need to transfer them to secondary containers, you need to create clear labels. Go through HazCom label requirements to understand how labeling should be done.
Ensure Optimum Cleanliness in the Work Place
Cleanliness is important in keeping everyone safe when handling hazardous chemicals. The workstations should be cleaned and organized, which will prevent unnecessary accidents. Avoid wet floors that would promote falls.
Get rid of clutter as cluttered areas that would encourage inadvertent mixing or spilling of chemicals. To reduce clutter, chemicals that are not being used should be in the storage room.
Excess chemicals should also remain in the original containers when not in use. You also need to have a disposal area close to the workstations to make it easier for your workers to dispose of chemicals safely.
You should also have a designated area where your employees can leave work clothes and protective gear. It would be prudent to have washing machines in the workplace. It’ll prevent employees from taking potentially contaminated clothes to their homes for cleaning.
Instruct all your employees to change their clothes before leaving their work areas. This will prevent any possibility of exposing anyone outside of the facility to the chemicals.
Safety Gear Should Be in Sight
To keep all your workers away from toxic exposure, you need to have safety gear available at all times. Keep everything in sight and instruct your employees to wear them every time they are in the work area. Exposure is likely to happen if safety gear is neglected, and if you make everything accessible, your employees are more likely to use them.
Forbid Eating or Drinking in the Work Area
Eating and drinking in and around the designated working area must be forbidden for all workers. This will prevent them from ingesting chemicals accidentally or contaminating the chemicals.
Have a designated area where all employees can take breaks and enjoy the meals. In this area, have accessible sinks and handwashing soap that they can use before and after eating to prevent chemical ingestion.
Have a Chain of Responsibility
Your business should have a chain of command and responsibilities. All workers should know who to report to in case of an accident or an emergency.
It’s a good idea to have a list of alternatives or substitutes that would take up that responsibility in the event of unavailability. You should also practice safety procedures that should be taken during emergencies. Conduct chemical spill drills and fire drills and keep all your employees well trained and prepared for emergencies.
Chemical Safety: Everything You Need to Know About Keeping Your Employees Safe
Now that you know what a chemical hazard is, you can easily implement these strategies to keep everyone safe. Chemical labeling is critical.
Workers will know what they’re dealing with and prevent unwarranted accidents. It may not be possible to prevent an accident from ever happening, but you can minimize risks by following these guidelines.
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