A Recipe for Disaster — Chemical Hazards in the Workplace
Take a minute to evaluate your workplace for chemicals that you use on a regular basis. Even if you use chemicals for your job frequently, there is always more to learn about health and safety. Each employer should be able to identify all hazardous chemicals and maintain a list of the ones that employees may be exposed to, and each employee should know how to handle and store them correctly.
There are many variables and hazards to consider when chemicals are involved, including asphyxiants, combustible dust, spontaneous ignitions, and more. These hazards are defined as physical or health hazards, and can lead to varying degrees of injury or death if exposed to them.
Physical hazards can result in burns, fires, or explosions, and can be caused by:
- Gases under pressure
- Flammable gases, liquids, and solids
- Organic peroxides
- Unstable substances
Health hazards can stem from chemicals that cause damage to the human body, such as internal organs, nervous and reproductive systems, skin irritants, cancers, and more. These can be caused by:
- Toxic substances
- Reproductive toxicity
So what can be done when working with risky and dangerous materials? Start with safety labels. These written, printed, or illustrated pieces of information should always be located on the container or package a chemical is contained in. Items that should be listed on the safety label include:
- Product identifier, which can be the chemical name, code number, or batch number, and supplier identification, including the name, address, and phone number of the manufacturer.
- A signal word, either “danger” or “warning.”
- Hazard statements showing the hazard class and category.
- Pictograms with an easy to read symbol to indicate specific information about the chemical.
- Precautionary statements for prevention, response, storage, and disposal.
Take a close look at the safety labels on chemicals you use regularly. Are you handling and storing them properly? Are your fellow employees are also following those same standards? Unmarked chemicals can be dangerous. Save yourself the headache, or other injury, and label chemicals correctly from the start.
Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and labels for all hazardous chemicals that may be handled by an employee. The SDS will contain the physical, health, environmental health, protective measures, and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting hazardous chemicals.
Store SDSs somewhere readily accessible to employees and located close to where they may be exposed to chemicals. If you are missing an SDS, the supplier or manufacturer can be contacted to obtain a copy.
Next time you glance at your chemical storage, take a moment to evaluate if everything meets safety standards. If they do not, take action and contact your supervisor immediately to avoid a recipe for disaster.
This article is for general information only and should not be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations herein may help reduce but are not guaranteed to eliminate any or all risk of loss. The information herein may be subject to, and is not a substitute for, any laws or regulations that may apply. This information is current as of June 2021 and is subject to change. Qualified counsel should be sought with questions specific to your circumstances and in developing policies and procedures for your business. © 2021 Federated Mutual Insurance Company.
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