While your business may not require large supplies or varieties of hazardous chemicals to function, all businesses will handle certain types of chemicals, examples include cleaners and sanitisers. These materials can cause serious injury if workers are exposed to them and not immediately treated. Similarly, some flammable liquids may be stored in your facility for specific uses which can cause fire and explosion.
Most exposure to chemicals happens when workers inhale vapours, dusts, fumes or gases, however absorption through the skin is also a significant source of exposure for some chemicals. The extent of exposure depends on the concentration of the substance or mixture in the air, the amount of time exposed and the effectiveness of controls. Exposure may cause immediate and acute health effects, or it may be decades before effects become evident.
The classification of these materials has recently changed to align with global standards. A hazardous chemical is any substance, mixture or article that meets the criteria of one or more Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) hazard classes. All dangerous goods and hazardous substances are classified under hazardous chemicals.
Working With Hazardous Chemicals
How can you ensure safety around hazardous chemicals? Applying the hierarchy of controls, the first question should always be, can we eliminate or substitute the hazard by using a non-hazardous material?
We know that this is not possible for all materials used. Where this is the case, a simple SHED approach will go a long way…
Responding if it goes wrong
While Personal Protective Equipment and safety procedures / instructions will help to protect employees from harm while using hazardous chemicals, incidents may still happen. An emergency shower and eyewash close at hand will help to mitigate burns and eye damage resulting from exposure to such chemicals, as well as allow staff to provide immediate First Aid response in the event of thermal burns.
Online training and other resources
Training and awareness are critical to ensuring all workers are verified as competent to handle chemicals. This can be made easy with online resources:
- Online training guide for Hazardous Chemicals and Dangerous Goods
- Safe Work Australia: Code of Practice Hazardous Chemicals
Of course contact the Victual team to access our guides or to ask any questions.