There are many businesses that deal with hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. Countless products require reagents that are in some way toxic or corrosive, which makes their usage necessary. However, this poses a specific problem for these businesses. How do you store and transport these chemicals properly and prevent employees from being injured? Every such workplace will have to have regulations that make safety and health a priority. Handling any kind of hazardous substance requires strict adherence to rules and guidelines that manufacturers set.
Everything from strong acids to explosive material needs to be handled delicately and with the utmost care. While many workplaces have their own set of rules when dealing with dangerous chemicals, there are some basic guidelines that can help any business increase the safety of their facilities and employees. Here are some of the more common examples.
Identify the hazardous substances
Before coming into contact with chemicals, personnel needs to understand what substance they’re dealing with. Different chemicals will have different safety protocols surrounding them, and the handling can drastically differ. Because of this, personnel should be careful to identify the hazardous substance before starting to transport it. If the chemical is particularly volatile or sensitive to motion, knowing this well in advance can prevent spillage or injury.
The SDS or safety data sheet of the substance should be readily available with every shipment. The manufacturer or importer will always include it with the stored chemical. This sheet contains all the relevant information about the handling and transport of the substance, which will come in handy for personnel when they have to come into contact with it.
Asses the most common risks
Even with proper care and handling, there’s always a degree of risk associated with transporting hazardous chemicals. Before handling these chemicals, personnel needs to be informed of what could happen during transport, as well as the adequate response to mishaps.
Consider things like the flammability and explosiveness of a substance. Is fire safety gear necessary during transport? Individuals carrying these substances should be wary of any electrical appliances or free wires that could cause a spark and ignite them. Gasses are especially dangerous, even with small leaks. They can cause asphyxiation and toxic damage to the lungs and eyes, which means workers should be aware of the risks and act swiftly during a leak. Every potential risk should be taken seriously and personnel must take great care in trying to avoid spillage and contact with outside environments.
Utilize safe storage solutions
While most accidents happen during the transport and unloading of chemicals, leakage isn’t at all uncommon while the chemical is in storage. Improper containers and vessels are the main cause of accidents and they can cause serious spillages. A good example is a substance like hydrofluoric acid, which cannot be stored in conventional glass cylinders or bottles, due to its high reactivity with glass. Having proper laboratory equipment for safety and protection is crucial in any workplace that deals with dangerous chemicals.
Explosive or highly volatile substances need to be kept in a secure and strong casing so that an accident does not harm personnel in the workplace. Fully welded 2mm steel and timber lining are strongly recommended for their storage.
Other corrosive substances should be kept in specialized storage cabinets. These are usually made from chemical resistant high-density polyethylene. These cabinets are metal-free and often self-closing, making them ideal for the prevention of spills.
Sustain compliance with regulations
Any workplace that has a constant influx of hazardous chemicals will have to quickly adapt to any changes that are introduced. Perhaps shipments of new chemicals will start coming in and existing rules will need to be adjusted. Lab overseers need to take into account for all the factors, both human and environmental, that could affect new chemicals being brought in.
Smoking is a very common issue and safety hazard in laboratories. Personnel that takes smoke breaks need to be aware f any highly-flammable substances that are being introduced to the regular schedule. Set up regulations that prevent smoking inside of the building, while also limiting exposure to flammable agents outside as well. While employees might not follow rules and regulations to a T, they are likely to take their smoking elsewhere, most likely further from the chemical storage facility. These regulations won’t remove the threat of accidents and spillages, but they can dramatically reduce the potential risks.
Provide adequate training
The employees that work in your facility aren’t perfect machines. They are likely to make mistakes every once in a while. This is an unavoidable part of any line of work. Your primary goals should include mitigating the chances of a mistake happening and creating an adequate response to accidents and disasters. This way, you can minimize the negative consequences of any mistakes that might occur.
Training is your most effective tool for achieving maximum employee safety. Have frequent drills that deal with the spillage of the more common substances that go through your facility. Even the situations that deal with rare and uncommon substances need to be covered.
Before commencing any duties with new personnel in the lab, you have to have them undergo a safety induction. Ongoing job training should be done under supervision, to prevent trainee mistakes. Everything from adequate transport to exact storage guidelines has to be covered and mastered.
Handling dangerous chemicals is a lot more complex than it might seem at first glance. There’s a ton of paperwork and safety protocol involved and for good reason. No business owner will want their employees to be injured on the job, especially not with hazardous chemicals involved. The good news is that there are guidelines that can help businesses equip their facilities with better security to prevent dangerous situations. The above examples cover common examples of what a business should strive to do in order to keep the danger to a minimum. As long as you follow these guidelines, you should be able to create a safe and healthy work environment, with minimal chance of disaster.
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