Did you know that occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals accounts for 1.3 million deaths globally every year? The reality is that thousands of different industries rely on these hazardous chemicals every day to operate properly.
As such, it’s up to employers to make sure that anyone who handles or is even around these chemicals, is safe from their toxic effects. That’s why we made this article.
In it, we’ll go over some of the basics that come with properly managing hazardous chemicals. That way, you can keep both your business and your employees, safe from their adverse effects. Let’s get started!
What Are Hazardous Chemicals?
Before we begin, it’s important to first go over some definitions like, What is a hazardous chemical? A hazardous chemical is any element or compound that is hazardous to human health or the environment.
These chemicals can be poisonous, corrosive, radioactive, reactive, or carcinogenic. When we think of chemicals, we might think of gases. But hazardous chemicals can come in gas, solid, and liquid forms.
They can be either a mixture or completely suspended. They also have a variety of uses. For industrial purposes, they can be used in the making of everything from chemical weapons to fertilizers. However, common ones can even be found in most households.
How Are They Regulated?
The different types of hazardous chemicals come with different regulations. If they’re more dangerous, then the chemicals are more closely regulated. But, what aspects of the hazardous chemicals are regulated.
First, there’s the manufacturing, which protects the workers making the chemicals. Then, there’s the storage. Some hazardous chemicals will become reactive if they aren’t stored at precise temperatures.
Next, there’s the transportation. This covers both the drivers (individuals require specialized licenses to transport them) and the conditions under which they are carried. Next, there’s the sale of hazardous chemicals.
Some of these chemicals cannot be sold to the general public. For example, some can only be sold to government agencies. Finally, there’s the application.
For safety reasons, only certain people can handle and use hazardous chemicals. This is mainly for hazardous chemicals that have particularly dangerous properties, like flammable chemicals, corrosive chemicals, and potentially explosive ones.
What Are Employers Responsible For When Managing Hazardous Chemicals?
As we mentioned before, each chemical is regulated differently. So, the way you manage it will depend on what type of chemicals you handling and at what stage in the process you get them.
However, there are a few all-encompassing rules for managing the use of hazardous chemicals, whether it’s a common household product or a dangerous weapon.
In this section, we’ll go over the different responsibilities that employers have when performing this management.
1. Controlling the Chemicals
If anything can be done to prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals, then an employer must do that to protect their employees. This includes things enclosing the room that uses the chemicals while making sure that it has good ventilation.
They should also implement a system and handling procedures that reduce the likelihood of the chemicals from escaping, whether by spill or leak.
They should reduce the number of employees that need to be exposed to the chemicals, as well as their duration around them. They should also provide all of these employees with proper training and PPE (personal protective equipment).
As you can see, there is a lot of assessment that needs to go into the use of these chemicals. As such, if it’s possible, then employers should consider a safer alternative.
If that’s not possible, then they will need to burden the responsibility that comes with hazardous chemicals.
2. Providing Safety Signs
Manufacturers of hazardous chemicals are required to provide safety signs that show if a specific chemical is dangerous. The criteria for these signs are set by Classification, Labeling, and Packaging Regulations (or CLP).
However, the warning label or only one part of the classification process. The employer that uses the hazardous chemicals must also provide their employees with a safety data sheet that provides more in-depth information on the chemical.
You can find more information here on why data sheets are important.
3. Training and Proper Authorization
It’s unacceptable for employees to not understand the potential risks of the chemicals they’re around every day. As such, it’s the employers to provide training for everyone, and authorization for those who need to handle it.
This will go a long way in the event of a disaster, like a chemical spill. If the entire staff is familiar with a control protocol, then it will be much more effective at containing the spill.
Similarly, if someone notices a fault and reports it, then it could potentially save lives. Because of this, employers should be expected to provide videos, or written material, detailing what to do in the event of exposure.
Finally, an employer is responsible for the disposal of hazardous chemicals. As we mentioned before, this depends on the specific type of hazardous chemical.
For example, explosive chemicals need to be either detonated or neutralized before they can be disposed of. Similarly, radioactive chemicals must be stored in deep, underground facilities that are geographically stable.
As such, you should look into the specific protocol that accompanies the chemical that you’re dealing with. You should also make sure that you hire someone to transport it that has the necessary qualification.
Want More Content? Keep Reading
We hope this article helped you learn how to properly manage hazardous chemicals. Keep in mind that this article is just a summary guide.
If you do manage hazardous chemicals, then you will need to take certification courses so that you know exactly what to do with the specific chemicals that you have on hand.
So, make sure to do more research as it’s needed. Did you enjoy this article? If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place. Keep exploring to find more content that you’re sure to love.