Avoid Hazardous Chemical Exposure

Toxic Chemicals Sign

UV Safety Month

July is the official start of summer for most parts of the country that aren’t blessed with the year round sunshine of the southwest. So for good reason, July has been deemed UV Safety Month by healthfinder.gov to help raise awareness about the dangers of ultraviolet rays from the sun.

UV rays play a significant role in causing skin cancer which happens to be the most common form of cancer in the United States. The good news is, with the proper preparation, skin cancer  and skin damage from UV rays is preventable with proper precautionary methods.

Occupational protection

A sunburn can be extremely painful, but a chemical burn can be potentially fatal and lead to unnecessary shut downs. However, like a sunburn, chemical exposure can be just as preventable.

With skin protection on the mind, it’s a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of chemical signage. Your organization’s hazard communication program is an essential part of your safety program. Like other parts, should be evaluated and updated regularly.

It is the responsibility of every employer to provide the necessary information on all hazardous chemicals that are present within the work place. This includes all data available on the particular chemical or gas and the measures necessary to protect themselves in the event they are exposed to such chemical or gas.

Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today,”

— U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a hazardous chemical as anything that is a physical or health hazard. Physical hazards are pretty straight forward and fairly easy to identify. They include flammable and combustible liquids, compressed gasses, explosives, organic peroxides, oxidizers, pyrophorics, and water reactives.

Health hazards can be a little more tricky to identify. OSHA has a guide to assist you in determining health hazards. Carcinogens, reproductive toxins, irritants, and corrosives are just a few of the notable health hazards that OSHA has identified.

Label, label, label

Chemical manufacturers are required to label all chemicals they manufacture and supply. This should include the identity of the hazardous material, the risks associated with it, and the manufacturer’s identity.

Over time these labels can become unreadable or even removed. It is then the employer’s responsibility to maintain all labels, keeping them legible and if needed, replace those that need to be replaced.

Having your own labeling system can save your company time and money when the time comes to replace a label or create a new one for an internal hazard. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Going without an up to date chemical labeling system, even for one day can lead to catastrophic events. Keeping your own labeling system on hand at all times will provide instant solutions to identified flaws.

Employee training

Are all your employees trained and educated?

All employees that use or can possible be exposed to hazardous materials should be required to undergo the proper training associated with each material. This should include a full comprehensive understanding of your hazard communication program. From time to time things will change around the workplace. This could possible mean that your training methods need to be adjusted to accommodate the changes.

Other examples that would call for additional training would include the introduction of a new chemical, or a new hire/transfer of employee to a new area.

Hazardous chemical safety training should include at least the following information:

  • Interpreting information on labels and SDS’s/MSDS’s/GHS’s.
  • Location of hazardous materials in the workplace.
  • Location and availability of material safety data sheets.
  • Acute and chronic effects of chemicals.
  • Safe handling procedures.
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Methods used to detect leaks and releases
  • Spill clean up and emergency procedures.

Committing to the long haul

As with every aspect of your occupational safety planning, taking your chemical communication program is extremely vital to the health and well being of your employers. Your dedication to each component of your safety planning reflects your willingness to protect your employees from any and all potential threats in the work place.

Routine checks and maintenance to your chemical communication program should be an essential part of your crew’s routine. The time spent can be the difference in saving ones life or serious injury.

Take the time today to go over your chemical labeling system and see if it meets the standards you would expect from your organization.

Additional Resources