Did you know that chemical hazards are present in many workplaces? In fact, chemical hazards are present in various settings, such as schools, hospitals, and office buildings. Businesses need to take steps to protect their employees from these dangers. Unfortunately, chemical hazards are quite ambiguous, especially for businesses that are unaware or don’t have the proper knowledge to deal with them. So, what is a chemical hazard?
In this article, we will discuss what chemical hazards are, the definition of a chemical hazard, and how businesses can implement control measures to reduce employee exposure.
What is a Chemical Hazard?
A chemical hazard is any substance—regardless of form—that has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment. This includes both natural and synthetic chemicals. It can also be the actual risk associated with specific chemicals, such as skin burns, a long-term adverse effect on health, severe environmental damage, or even chaotic explosions.
According to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), employees must be aware of the risks and hazards associated with their daily work. Recognizing hazards at work will reduce the chance of exposure to chemical hazards and the injuries it entails.
Types of Chemical Hazard
While there are several types of chemical hazards, the following are recognized as the chemicals that are commonly found in the workplace:
- Asphyxiants: Chemical gasses can cause breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, suffocation, or death.
- Corrosives: Chemicals that can cause severe damage to human tissue once contacted with; commonly causes skin burns.
- Irritants: Chemicals that cause rashes, redness, or inflammation of the affected area. While the presence of symptoms is short-term, there are instances where they can potentially create long-lasting effects on others.
- Carcinogens: Substances that are known to cause cancer. Carcinogens are categorized as either artificial or natural. Even a small dose of this dangerous chemical can severely hinder human health.
- Mutagens: Exposure to this chemical can cause irreversible changes to a person’s DNA (mutation).
- Reactive: These substances are unstable and can potentially cause chemical burns, explosions, or fires.
- Teratogens: Chemicals that can cause physiological abnormalities or malformations during the prenatal stage.
- Flammable: Chemical substances that can easily ignite and cause fires.
Businesses must take the necessary precautions to protect employees against these chemical hazards. Without the proper knowledge, chemical hazards can pose a significant threat to the workplace.
Examples of Chemical Hazards
Exposure to workplace chemical hazards can result in adverse health conditions, including breathing difficulties, headache, severe allergic reaction, skin irritation, and other serious, long-lasting side effects.
While most chemical hazards are easily identifiable, some are used daily, with workers not being aware of the potential risks. The following are examples of chemical hazards that are commonly found in the workplace:
- Cleaning materials
- Heavy metals (aluminum, lead, mercury)
- Welding fumes
How to Protect the Workplace Against Chemical Hazards
Businesses must take the necessary steps to protect their employees from chemical hazards. Besides violating OSHA standards, chemical hazards can pose a significant threat to the workplace. The following are some of the ways businesses can protect their workplace against chemical hazards:
- Implement a chemical hazard control plan.
- Educate and train employees on chemical hazards.
- Establish safe work practices.
- Conduct regular inspections.
- Enforce the use of the right personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Create a chemical inventory.
- Label all chemical containers.
- Store chemicals properly.
- Dispose of chemicals properly.
Businesses can protect their workplace against chemical hazards by taking the necessary precautions.
How to Control Chemical Hazards Exposure
Workplaces, especially manufacturing and other related industries, cannot completely eliminate or avoid using hazardous materials. However, what businesses can do to protect their workers is to observe safety measures that aim to control workplace chemical hazards while reducing their potential negative impacts on employees.
With that said, the following are just some preventive measures and helpful tips on how to maintain a safe working environment for you and your workers:
Identify Hazardous Chemicals Present in Your Workplace
To start, businesses will need to identify hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Some are quite obvious, while others may need some further assessment. Once all hazardous chemicals have been identified, businesses must properly label all chemical containers.
Conduct a Risk Assessment
After identifying all chemical hazards in the workplace, businesses will need to conduct a risk assessment. This will help determine the potential risks associated with each chemical hazard. Businesses can develop an effective chemical hazard control plan through a comprehensive risk assessment.
Implement a Chemical Hazard Control Plan
After conducting a risk assessment, businesses will need to implement a chemical hazard control plan. This plan should include measures to control employee exposure to chemical hazards.
When dealing with workplace chemical hazards, follow the principle of the hierarchy of controls. This concept will give you the proper order to control chemical hazards. The following is the order of the hierarchy of controls:
- Elimination: This involves removing the hazard completely from the workplace.
- Substitution: This involves replacing the hazardous chemical with a less harmful one.
- Engineering Controls: This involves implementing physical changes in the workplace to reduce employee exposure to chemical hazards.
- Administrative Controls: This involves implementing policies and procedures to reduce employee exposure to chemical hazards.
- Personal Protective Equipment: This is the last resort and should only be used when all other control measures have been exhausted.
Implement Good Control Measures
Your business should also have a comprehensive standard control measure that can be followed by every personnel and employee involved to prevent chemical hazards. So remember that the first step to achieving this goal is through chemical hazard identification, which can be done by reviewing your current work practices, reading chemical container labels, and consulting with chemical suppliers.
Utilize Safety Signs and Symbols
According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), chemical hazards in the workplace are often communicated through safety signs and symbols. These signs and symbols are designed to warn workers of the potential hazards present in the area.
Perform Regular Inspections
Finally, businesses should perform regular workplace inspections to ensure that all chemical hazards are properly controlled. These inspections should be conducted by a qualified individual who is familiar with the chemical hazards present in the workplace.
Protect Your Workplace with DATAMYTE
Ensure proper workplace chemical hazard handling and control using a digital safety platform like DATAMYTE. Our Digital Clipboard is a powerful workflow automation software that you can use to implement safety measures relating to chemical hazards.
The DataMyte Digital Clipboard can create comprehensive workflows that will guide your workers step-by-step on how to handle chemical hazards in the workplace safely. With this solution, you can be sure that your chemical hazard control measures are being followed and that your workplace is always protected against these hazards.
In addition, you can also create digital checklists and other forms to help you track chemical hazards in the workplace. With the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you can also easily identify potential risks and take corrective action to ensure the safety of your workplace.
Get started with the DataMyte Digital Clipboard today and ensure your employees a safe and chemical-free workplace!
By following this guide, businesses can effectively control employee exposure to chemical hazards and create a safe working environment. Chemical hazards are present in every workplace; businesses need to be aware of their potential risks and take steps to control them.