Each year, chemical releases and explosions occur with tragic results impacting employees and local communities. These disasters are stark reminders to heed hazardous chemical safety regulations and procedures in manufacturing facilities. Communicating how to safely handle and use hazardous chemicals is key to protecting workers and the environment. Global regulations and U.S. federal and state regulations require it!
The United Nations Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is an internationally adopted system for classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. It defines health, physical and environmental hazards and includes criteria to classify and categorize hazards. For instance, GHS describes criteria for three states of matter:
The GHS also depicts the symbols used for each hazard class and communicates hazard information used for labels, such as product identifier, signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, and precautionary statements and safety data sheets (SDSs). Two signal words, danger and warning, are used to alert people to the relative severity level of a potential hazard on the label.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication Standard addresses classification of hazardous chemicals and provides information on health and safety hazards and the appropriate protective measures to ensure worker safety.
Chemicals can have severe toxic effects at excessive levels and can enter the human body through absorption (i.e., through contact with the skin or eyes), inhalation (i.e., through breathing gases, vapors, mists or dusts) and ingestion. The route of chemical exposure, such as acute toxicity (single exposure) or chronic toxicity (long-term exposure), determines whether the chemical has an effect on the human body.
To ensure chemical safety in the workplace, information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers. At minimum, facilities should:
STOP ... and ask!
You have the right to know what chemicals you're working around:
Remember to keep safety top of mind at the start and end of each day. No matter the task, on-the-job safety must encompass every aspect of your daily work preparation, through and extending beyond a job’s completion.
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