Chemical Safety in the Workplace
By Kylie Wolfe
Chemical safety goes beyond goggles and gloves. It requires proper planning and execution of general safety and emergency response procedures. Whether you work with chemicals directly or indirectly, it’s important to understand the risks and take the necessary steps to reduce chemical hazards and increase overall safety. Chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or injected, and planning for all of these possibilities will lead to a safer workplace.
Plan Ahead to Stay Ahead
Proper training for new employees and regular retraining sessions will help to ensure that all employees are aware of the company’s safety and evacuation procedures. Use this time to educate employees about overall chemical safety and show them how to respond to fires, chemical spills, or medical emergencies.
Storage and Safety
Improved organization of the chemical storage areas can also help to prevent chemical mishaps. All chemicals, including storage and waste containers, should be properly labeled, and any damaged, illegible, or mislabeled containers should be reported and addressed. Clean any chemical storage areas regularly to avoid the accumulation of unneeded or hazardous chemicals.
Store chemicals in a cool, dry area with appropriate ventilation and drainage. Since toxic vapors and gases can mix in the air of the storage room, be cautious and follow all storage guidelines. Space shelves appropriately, and organize chemicals to minimize the risk of unexpected reactions due to spills. Flammable or combustible chemicals should be well labeled, kept out of direct sunlight, and stored in the appropriate types of safety cabinets.
Gear Up for Safety
Employers must make Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and well-maintained personal protective equipment (PPE) readily accessible. They must also teach employees how to properly use eyewash stations, safety showers, fire extinguishers, and required PPE.
Employees must comply with rules for wearing properly fitting goggles, respirators, gloves, and other PPE. Employees are also responsible for reviewing the applicable SDS to learn about potential risks before handling any chemical.
Keep workstations clean and organized to help prevent spills. Contaminated clothing should be placed in a designated location and should not be worn outside the workplace. And store any food or drinks outside the chemical workspace in a clean area that is equipped with a hand-washing sink.