The effects of chemical-related accidents can be devastating for workers and their families, as injuries may lead to loss of life, loss of career, pain, suffering and overwhelming medical costs. Such accidents also impact on the employer as they result in production losses, compensation costs, damage to assets, the costs of hiring and training new employees, and low worker morale.
Consequently, it is crucial to follow the appropriate safety procedures when working with chemicals. We have compiled a handy list of easy-to-follow safety tips to help ensure that you and your workers are protected against chemical-related injuries in the workplace.
Always wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including gloves, glasses, helmets and protective clothing. Ensure that your PPE is suitable for the kind of work you are undertaking.
Wear comfortable, closed shoes, free from holes that would allow chemicals to enter.
Long hair, including facial hair, should be tied back and kept out of the way. Cover any facial hair with a specially designed net.
Remove any jewellery that might get caught in equipment and store it in a safe place, away from any chemicals.
Do not reuse disposable PPE, and dispose of it in the appropriate bins. Although it may appear clean, it might have absorbed harmful chemicals.
Health and safety procedures
Ensure pertinent phone numbers such as those for emergency services (000), and the poison control centre, are easily accessible to everyone in the workplace.
Provide clear maps and signage showing evacuation routes, emergency exits and assembly points.
Signage for emergency aid—first aid kits, emergency exits, the automated external defibrillator (AED)—must be clear, unbroken and comply with safety colour codes.
Clean up spills as soon as they have occurred, using the appropriate cleaning materials and chemical spill kits where necessary. If you are not able to clean up the spill yourself, alert someone who can.
Workspaces and chemical disposal sites must have adequate ventilation. Perform regular checks to ensure that there are no blockages in fume hoods and ventilation systems.
Under Workplace Health and Safety regulations, all workplaces are required to have Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for the chemicals that they use or store on the premises. All SDS must be clear, accurate and up-to-date. Contact the Chemwatch team if you need help with your SDS management.
Use and maintenance of chemical equipment
Ensure all equipment is clean before and after use. Leave equipment in ready-to-use order.
Perform regular checks on all equipment to ensure it is unbroken, in proper working order, and that no components and/or reagents have expired.
Repair any broken equipment as soon as possible. Create a contact list of appropriately trained professionals you can rely on to carry out services and repairs on specialist equipment.
Employees should only work on equipment if they are trained to do so, and should contact their supervisors to arrange training on any specialist equipment that they may need to use.
All chemicals must be clearly labelled. Labels should be clean, unbroken, legible and written in the most widely spoken language. They should include all the pertinent information and refer to the relevant SDS.
Organise cupboards properly, ensuring that only compatible chemicals are stored with each other and that the labels face outwards so that they are easy to identify. This is paramount to the safety of your workplace.
All chemicals, equipment and rubbish should be put away in the appropriate places at the end of the day to make cleaning easier. Laboratories should be regularly cleaned by professional cleaners.
Replenish items (such as plasters) in first aid kits immediately after use. Ensure that you always have a backup of supplies on hand, and order supplies well in advance to make sure they will always be in stock.
Floors should be swept at the end of each day to ensure that the workspace is clean and tidy for the next day.
To find out more about how you can keep yourself and your workers safe while working with chemicals, speak to the Chemwatch team today. We specialise in chemical safety and have years of experience helping clients to stay safe and comply with government regulations.