Any time you're working with chemicals it's important to observe the strictest safety standards. Even if chemicals aren't particularly hazardous in and of themselves, there's always a chance that environmental factors, contamination, or exposure to other elements could lead to unintended consequences including accident, injury, and/or property damage, just for example.
In other words, you want to make sure you have proper workplace safety products on hand, that you enact appropriate safety procedures, and that employees are properly trained to handle chemicals and behave in a safe and responsible manner at all times. Here are just a few important do’s and don'ts for chemical safety that should be observed in any work setting where chemicals are present.
DO: Use Proper Containment
Chemical safety begins with having appropriate workplace safety products on hand, and that includes proper containment measures. Barrels, tanks, and IBCs are among the products used for primary containment of chemicals, and once sealed and cleaned these vessels should keep your chemicals from leakage, spillage, or other exposure.
However, proper safety precautions require that you also have a secondary containment system in place should accidental leakage or spills occur. Secondary containment generally includes the use of some type of platform complete with a sump to keep chemical overflow from seeping into and contaminating facilities. Chemical storage cabinets or lockers with similar features may also be used.
Chemicals containers could also be stored on shelving racks. Regardless of how you contain and store chemicals, it's important to pay attention to specs for containers, platforms, shelving, and so on to make sure you're operating within guidelines for these workplace safety products.
DON'T: Forget to Label Containers
Containing chemical substances is your first directive, but labeling is also essential to ensuring safe handling of chemicals. Poor labeling, mislabeling, or no labeling at all could lead to accident, injury, unintended mixing of chemicals, or inappropriate handling.
Labels are not generally characterized as workplace safety products, per se, but they can certainly play a role in keeping your operation, your facilities, and your employees safe from harm when handling chemicals.
DO: Keep Chemicals Separate
Most companies that deal with chemicals know better than to mix them, even in waste containers. It could be tempting to cut corners in order to save on the expense of having excess containers that are only partially full, but mixing chemicals is always a mistake.
Mixing chemicals could cause violent chemical reactions, potentially creating toxic, flammable, or explosive conditions. This is hazardous to the health of your employees, the integrity of your facilities, and the overall safety of your workplace.
No matter what workplace safety products you keep on hand to deal with potential hazards related to chemical storage, it is incumbent on you to insist on proper handling if you want to prevent accidents and resulting injuries and damage. Keeping chemicals separate is an important safety precaution.
DON'T: Overfill Containers
The general rule of thumb here is that containers meant for chemical substances (manufactured, waste, or otherwise) should never be more than 90-95% full, depending on the contents. You might be tempted to fill them all the way in order to save a few pennies, but this could be a costly mistake.
Overfilling containers could lead to leaks and spills, at the very least. This means cleanup and any number of potential hazards related to chemical exposure.
In addition, some chemicals may expand or emit gases under pressure. If this is the case, overfilling could lead to leaks or even explosions. Liquid chemicals should also be given a bit of room to move around during transportation, also as a safety precaution.
Leaving adequate "head room" in storage containers is safety 101, and you should become aware of proper levels for any chemicals you routinely handle.
DO: Properly Train Employees
Providing workplace safety products and gear as well as creating procedures and policies for the safe handling of chemicals only really works if your employees are aware that these precautions are in place. You must therefore make adequate safety training your top priority.
No amount of safety precautions will prevent accidents if employees fail to behave in a safe and responsible manner. You not only need to create policies and procedures related to chemical safety, but you need to train employees and test them periodically to ensure the best chance of avoiding common accidents.