How To Protect Your Employees from Chemical Exposure

Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash
2 years ago

Chemicals are an important part of the manufacturing process. However, many of these chemicals are so hazardous that you need to protect your employees from them. Here are some effective ways of doing so both inside and outside the business.

Establish Your Business in a Clean Environment

A common piece of advice you will hear when starting a business is to find the best location for the business. The location should be easy to access for both employees and customers. One piece of advice you do not typically hear is to check other businesses in your surroundings to see how sustainable they are.

Even in cases where you take all precautions to protect your employees from toxic chemical exposure, another business may be causing the exposure every time your employees leave your safe and clean premises.

There was a case of a pesticide factory that caused injury to employees of other businesses and surrounding communities downstream. The businesses whose employees were indirectly affected suffered health complications years down the line. Perhaps establishing the surrounding businesses in a different location would have helped in this case by eliminating such exposure.

In such cases, the affected employees and communities can sue for compensation, but from the offending business instead of yours. Those affected can visit this website for more information on what to do in such cases.

Identify and Label All Hazardous Chemicals

Before starting, every business owner should identify all hazardous materials in their business. Some of these chemicals will be obvious because they come labeled as such, but some will require additional research to find out how they behave under different conditions and how dangerous they could be.

Once you have identified all these chemicals, you should make sure they are labeled correctly.

Provide Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a great way of reducing direct exposure to chemicals, and it remains one of the easiest control and protective measures to implement. PPEs provide a protective barrier around the employee to provide the protection they do.

It is not enough to get PPEs for your employees it is also important to get the right ones and enforce their correct use. To ensure you are getting the right protective equipment, you should always be aware of the chemicals and hazardous materials they will come into contact with from the step above.

If your employees do not wear the provided PPE properly, even if it is the right one, they will not be adequately protected from the chemical they come across.

Implement a Chemical Hazard Control Plan

Once you have identified all chemicals and the dangers they pose, the next step is implementing a chemical hazard control plan. This plan should include measures to minimize employee exposure to all chemicals identified as hazardous.

Many businesses have what is known as the hierarchy of control. This hierarchy gives you the order you follow to control chemical hazards. The hierarchy goes as follows:

  • Elimination – The removal of hazardous materials from the workplace
  • Substitution – Replacing the highly hazardous chemicals with another that is less dangerous. Sometimes a business will also store two less hazardous materials that when combined produce the chemical they need but that is hazardous to store in its final form
  • Engineering controls – Implementing physical changes that reduce hazards and proximity to hazardous chemicals
  • Administrative controls – Implementing procedures and policies that minimize exposure
  • Use of PPEs – This is the lowest and most basic form of protection

Implementing Control Measures

Control measures are rules that should be followed by all employees when handling chemicals. They range from the identification of chemicals as discussed above and go as far as consulting chemical manufacturers on how to handle different chemicals.

Ensure Chemicals are Only Used For Their Intended Purpose

An employee should only handle a chemical if they know what it is to be used for and how it is supposed to be used. This is the best way to ensure that all employees only use the different chemicals for their intended purposes.

This goes hand in hand with proper labeling. For example, all solvents should be labeled as corrosive if they are, so an employee does not use them to clean their hands. You can find the information you need about the specific use, dos and don’ts of all solvents from their manufacturers.

Do Regular Inspections

Business owners and managers should do regular inspections to ensure all chemicals are labeled, stored, and used as intended.

All businesses that use chemicals should ensure their employees are protected from exposure. They can do this by following the tips provided above. In addition, businesses should protect their employees from exposure they are not directly responsible for, such as asphyxiants from neighboring businesses.

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