Working with Poisons and Gases

Warning Compressed Gas Safety Sign

Most people don’t have to work with or even around poisons or gasses very often, but it is still important to ensure every workplace has safety policies in place. Whether a workplace uses chemicals that can give off poisonous gases on a regular basis, or they just have solutions that if improperly mixed could cause a toxic result, it is good to have a safety plan in place.

There are many different toxic gasses that are hazardous to people’s health. Some of them can cause you to feel sick or light headed, and others can be fatal quite quickly. When preparing a safety plan for the facility, it is important to ensure everyone who potentially could be exposed to the harmful substances is trained on how to react. Providing them with proper safety gear is also essential.

Determining Which Poisons and Gasses are a Threat

The first step in ensuring your workplace is prepared for the threat of poisons and gasses is to figure out which types of potential gasses and poisons are present. These poisons or chemicals should have GHS labels on them to help identify and communicate that they contain hazardous materials.

According to OSHA’s guide to GHS labeling:

The GHS is an acronym for The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The GHS is a system for standardizing and harmonizing the classification and labelling of chemicals. It is a logical and comprehensive approach to:

  • Defining health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals;
  • Creating classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria; and
  • Communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

OSHA – Eye and Face Protection

GHS_Toxic_labelsLooking at the different chemicals and properly labeling these agents and other solutions will give you a good idea of where to start. Some of these items may be toxic on their own, so you know you need to be prepared for fumes from them.

Other things, may only be toxic if they are mixed with another chemical. Even if this would never intentionally be done, it is still critical to plan for an accidental spill or mixture. In many cases, when two or more chemicals mix, it can cause them to turn into toxic fumes or gasses very quickly, so proper reaction is key to keeping everyone safe.

Detection Systems

For some poisons and gasses it may be important to have some sort of detection system in place. Just like a smoke detector, you can get carbon monoxide detectors, and others as well. These are often necessary for gasses that are odorless and colorless, because people could be exposed to them without even knowing it. While the treat is smaller at work because people won’t be sleeping, it is still extremely dangerous and can cause significant medical problems if exposure is prolonged.

While there are not always detection systems available for every poison or gas, it is a good idea to have them whenever possible. These devices can provide an early warning to threats, so people can respond to the issue before there is any significant risk. This is a great way to minimize the problems caused by poisons and gasses in the workplace. When using these systems, however, it is also important to have them running throughout the facility so people will be alerted no matter where the danger exists.

Providing Safety Gear

Once you know all the different chemicals, poisons and gasses that your company is potentially going to be exposed to, it is time to plan out what type of safety gear you need. There are a couple of different options to choose from when getting the safety gear you need. The first option is to provide those who are potentially going to be exposed to poisons or gasses with a complete safety suit that will protect them from all the potential hazards.

They can then wear that suit at work, so they are always protected. They could also just have the suit available to put on in the event of an emergency, depending on the severity of the threat. The other option is to have some standard safety gear like face masks and rubber gloves, which can be used on a regular basis, and then emergency gear in case something goes wrong. Each facility will need to evaluate which option is the right one for their specific situation.

Exhaust Systems

Another excellent option for keeping a facility safe from poisons and gasses is to have a high quality exhaust system installed. In the event of an emergency where poisons or gasses are present, the exhaust system can suck them out of the area quickly and safely. Depending on the types of toxic gasses or poisons, exhaust systems can have high quality filters to ensure the dangerous gasses aren’t just moved out into the open air, causing additional safety risks.

Exhaust systems can be automatically activated when dangerous gasses are present, or they can be manually activated by an employee in the area. In many cases, companies will have a large red button that, when pressed, will trigger the advanced exhaust system that is in place. This is an excellent way to quickly restore safety so an area. When planned out properly, these types of systems can help to contain the poisons & gasses so they don’t spread throughout a facility.

Training and Education

As with most safety related issues, training and education will be essential for keeping everyone safe from poisons and gasses in a facility. One common training method is by showing training DVD’s to help engage and properly inform your employees about hazardous communication. Everyone needs to know what to look out for, and when to take steps to prevent exposure. Letting people know what types of things they might see, hear or smell when a particular type of gas or poison is present will help them to respond immediately to danger.

Also, they should know when it is safe to stay in the area, and when evacuation is the right course of action. Without proper training, you’ll have times when some people are running for the doors, and others are remaining in the area. Getting everyone on the same page with this type of risk is critical.

Additional Resources