Safety Tip

​Hazard Communication:
Chemical Safety

​Effectively communicate, handle and use chemicals safely in the workplace

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:

  • ​​Solid - A solid has a definite shape and volume regardless of the container into which
  • it is placed.
  • ​Liquid - A quantity of liquid has a definite volume but takes on the shape of its container.
  • Gas - A quantity of gas has the shape and volume of the container it occupies.

​​​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:

  • ​Develop, implement and maintain a written hazard communication program for the workplace
  • ​Identify and list hazardous chemicals in the workplace
  • ​Obtain and maintain SDSs and labels for each hazardous chemical used in the workplace
  • ​Maintain SDSs that cover key content areas, such as:
  • ​​Manufacturer contact information
  • ​Chemical identity
  • ​Hazardous ingredients
  • ​Physical and chemical characteristics
  • ​Fire and explosion hazard data
  • ​Reactivity (instability) data
  • ​Health hazards
  • ​First aid procedures
  • ​Precautions for safe handling and use
  • ​Control measures
  • ​And more
  • ​Communicate hazard information to employees through labels, SDSs, and employee training programs

STOP ... and ask!

You have the right to know what chemicals you're working around:

  • ​If you’re assigned to a project or working or employed at an industrial site
  • ​If you’re performing line breaking (i.e., opening, separating, or removing instruments) and the vessel opening contains chemicals or may contain residual chemicals
  • ​If you’re a project, construction or site manager – maintaining inventories, SDSs and employee training records is a must
  • ​If you purchase or transfer any chemicals to a customer site – approvals are required, and you must have a disposition plan for leftover quantities

​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.

Be safe.

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