Practicing and Ensuring Chemical Safety in the Workplace

Some jobs are simply more dangerous than others. A contractor at a construction company is at a bigger risk of injury in the workplace than, say, an accountant. An employee at a manufacturing warehouse is more likely to be injured while working than a high school teacher.

Such is the case for people who work in industrial plants. Plenty of them has to work with and around hazardous chemicals. Seemingly simple mistakes in these work environments can result in major accidents that put other workers at risk. That is why rigorous chemical safety measures must be enforced at these workplaces.

The following pointers are some of the most important in promoting safety when it comes to handling chemicals in the workplace:

1. Understand the chemicals you’re working with.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard, chemical manufacturers must provide a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for every hazardous chemical they send out. An SDS contains information about the substance, including the chemical’s properties, its environmental and health hazards, and storing instructions. This document helps workers understand and prepare for the materials they’re handling.

2. Establish a standard operating procedure.

Some chemical plants and laboratories deal with only a specific type of substance that requires specific handling safety protocols. Larger facilities, though, often handle a wider array of chemicals. In such situations, having a standard operating procedure (SOP) to follow for every type of chemical substance makes it easier for employees to remember proper handling practices and adhere to them. A comprehensive SOP covers the safe handling, use and storage of chemicals, proper disposal, and correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to use.

3. Store chemicals properly.

Chemicals are volatile substances. Some react violently when they come into contact with others, which can result in deadly gas explosions or fires. That is why employees in facilities that deal with chemicals must know how to store these substances safely. The most important consideration is using a compatible container. Some acids, for example, react with metals, so they cannot be stored in metal tanks. Chemical containers must also be maintained. Industrial tanks need painting or repainting to protect their surfaces from natural elements that may deteriorate the tank material.

4. Use the correct PPE.

Imagine a warrior going to battle without their armor. That is what it’s like for a worker at a chemical facility to handle chemicals without PPE. Coveralls, aprons, skid-proof boots, chemical-resistant gloves, goggles—these are some of the essential pieces of PPE that workers are required to wear before handling chemicals. These protect their eyes, skin, and airways, allowing them to handle different chemicals safely.

5. Carry out extensive staff training.

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Like with any workplace, industrial sectors working with chemical substances need to provide extensive training for their staff. Proper training introduces workers to chemical safety, helping them understand every aspect of it instead of merely reading something from a manual. Training sessions also help instill the importance of following chemical safety measures, including the ones mentioned above, so they know what to do in case of accidents involving chemicals.

Chemical safety in the workplace is an integral part of operations and something that all employees must take seriously. Practicing the safety measures above helps ensure that the workplace remains a safe environment for every staff member.