Unsafe storage or improper handling of hazardous chemicals is like playing with fire.
Depending on the quantity and type – paint, glue, cleaning agents, fuel, pesticides or solvents – the consequences could be catastrophic.
Not only could your workers be exposed to harmful fumes or toxins that may cause chronic illnesses such as cancer or asthma, but leaks or spills can cause costly environmental damage such as water contamination.
Unchecked, a gradual-release or prolonged exposure could come years down the track, via financially crippling legal action by affected workers or environmental watchdogs.
Some potential hazards might not be obvious, such as a spray painter working in a booth listening to a portable radio – a possible ignition source for flammable fumes.
“Often the risk has never occurred to them because it’s how they’ve always done it or been told how to do it. And unfortunately it’s often only when an accident does occur that the penny drops” explained SafeWork Assistant State Inspector, Nathan McDonald.
Aside from the risk of an explosion or violent chemical reaction, simply inhaling vapours could render your workers drowsy and more likely to make errors or suffer an injury.
Here are some pointers.
- Make sure chemicals delivered to your workplace are clearly labelled.
- Make sure workers understand safety data sheet and labels.
- Make a list of all your hazardous chemicals – and always keep it up to date.
- Isolate hazardous chemicals from the rest of the workplace, restrict access to dangerous areas, and use exhaust ventilation for fumes.
- Develop an emergency plan and provide appropriate personal protective equipment.
Finally, check out simple safety to find out how easy it is to use, store and handle hazardous chemicals safely.