5 tips on handling chemicals in the workplace
Chemicals in the workplace are hazardous, which is why they should be handled properly. Failure to accomplish this task can cause several health effects to employees, namely poisoning, nausea, vomiting, burns, and even disorders of the lungs, liver, or kidney. Statistics also show that 41 workers in the US died on the job after inhaling chemicals.
To ensure that you remain safe when working with or being around chemicals, knowing how to handle them is the key. Aside from keeping you safe, being equipped with this information guarantees your productivity in the workplace. Plus, this will surely enhance your quality of life as you don’t have to spend most of your earnings on hospital and medical bills.
Here are five tips on handling chemicals in the workplace:
1. Understand what you’re using
Preventing accidents caused by chemical hazards will come off easier when you understand what chemicals you are using. The more you know about these chemicals, the easier it’ll be for you to determine the dos and don’ts when handling them.
To understand the chemicals you’re using, check the Safety Data Sheet or SDS of the chemical supplier. This information is provided in every hazardous substance used in the workplace.
The SDS will give you information about the properties of the chemicals, along with their hazards and risks when using them. Studying the SDS of each chemical present in the workplace is crucial as some have more than hazards. For example, weed killers are toxic when absorbed by ingestion and are also flammable.
Additionally, understanding what chemicals you use at work will help you design physical areas to better accommodate the chemical and label the chemicals with the correct signage. This information also makes it easier for you to develop safe operating methods.
2. Wear personal protective equipment
Regardless of the chemical you’re handling, wearing personal protective equipment or PPE when you’re around or working with them is a must. Wearing a PPE keeps you safe as it prevents chemicals from contacting your airways, eyes, skin, and whole body.
Personal hygiene, skin protection, eye protection, radiation protection, and thermal protection require different sets of PPE. You should wear all these to ensure that chemicals don’t come in contact with any of your body parts.
3. Store chemicals properly
How and where you store chemicals in the workplace also impacts your safety, as well as the safety of the people working with you. Some chemicals react violently when stored with other substances, causing toxic gas clouds, fires, and even explosions.
The SDS features a section that provides information on how you can safely store specific chemicals and if any chemicals should be stored separately. In general, you should follow these tips when storing chemicals in the workplace:
- Store chemicals away from service and food preparation areas. Certain chemicals give off gases that may cause foods to become toxic.
- Keep chemicals in a stored room or facility to avoid unauthorized staff from accessing them. If possible, have someone log who enters and exits the storage area.
- Label each chemical with the correct warning sign and placard. The label should also show the composition of the chemicals and what should be avoided when handling them.
- Pick a storage area away from work activities and is well ventilated. You don’t want the chemicals to cause sparks and heat, which can result in fires.
- Close properly all portable containers of chemicals when not in use. As mentioned, chemicals can give off harmful or hazardous gases.
4. Install alarms and detectors
Chemicals are toxic when inhaled. For instance, carbon monoxide — which is usually used in burners and furnaces — can cause shortness of breath, weakness, and dizziness when inhaled. And because this chemical is an odorless and tasteless gas, symptoms are probably in their worst state before you realize that you’re inhaling carbon monoxide.
Installing alarms and detectors in the workplace is essential to properly handle chemicals. Gas sensors detect the concentration of gases present in the room to avoid risks, such as fire and inhalation. These are also imperative solutions to keep the staff safe from chemical-related hazards.
5. Train your staff
Providing your staff with PPE isn’t enough to keep them safe. It’s crucial to train your staff on how to handle chemicals so they can fully understand the risks and hazards involved. This information will also encourage your staff to be more alert and mindful when working with chemicals.
The training should include all the staff who regularly work with or handle chemicals in the workplace. Individuals who regularly visit the manufacturing areas of the workplace or those who are expected to respond to emergencies should also participate in the training.
Newly hired staff should also undergo training before working on site. They should understand the hazards of the chemicals that affect their safety, their fire and chemical training, and what to do when they’re accidentally exposed to chemicals.
Improve your daily routine
Now that you know the correct ways to handle chemicals in the workplace, implement them daily. Following all the tips provided here might mean changing your daily routine, but these little sacrifices will go a long way to ensure your safety and productivity at work!