When you work in an industry that handles chemicals, there are safety precautions that need to be taken. As we’ve discussed previously, having a full spill kit on hand is imperative when dealing with dangerous chemicals. However, the handling of those chemicals is equally as important. In addition to ensuring that you are meeting national and local legal requirements, exercising caution and care while managing chemicals can help protect your employees and your bottom line from the effects of a harmful spill.
While your company may find that additional requirements will help make your workplaces safer, at least following these 6 tips will help to keep any chemicals and liquids you might be working with contained and safely stored:
- Use labels and keep paperwork in order. Chemical manufacturers are required Under OSHA’s Hazard Communication standards to label chemicals in the workplace based on any hazards they might pose. A Material Safety Data Sheet must also be provided for each and every chemical.
- Keep inventory. Keeping an updated inventory on any on-site chemicals, as well as any safety information needed for individual chemicals, will help keep track of what is stored in your facility and ensure that your staff knows how best to handle each chemical. An inventory is also needed in the event of a fire or chemical spill where the fire department has to be called. Emergency personnel will need an updated list of the chemicals in the facility to better assess how to handle the situation.
- Use a well organized storage system. The best storage method for keeping chemicals is to store them by type. Storing them alphabetically could cause a problem if some of the chemicals are incompatible with each other. Flammables, corrosives, and toxic chemicals are a few types of chemicals that commonly cause problems when stored with other chemicals. Storing by type can prevent any accidental contact that could cause a fire or worse, an explosion. Make sure each chemical family is separated by either a non-combustible partition or at least 20 feet of space.
- Use safe storage materials. Any corrosive liquids should be kept in acid containers to ensure that mutually reactive chemicals can’t accidentally come in contact with one another. They should also be kept within secondary corrosive-resistant containers.
- Schedule safety checks. Frequently do checkups of any containers or drums of oil and chemicals. Over time, containers or drums could develop leaks. If left unmended these can cause serious damage and possibly result in injury. In the event of a leak, use a drip pan to catch the leaked chemical until the storage unit can be properly mended or replaced entirely.
- Create a Chemical Hygiene Plan. A Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) is another must for chemical-handling organizations. A CHP is “a written program stating the policies, procedures and responsibilities that protect workers from the health hazards associated with the hazardous chemicals used in that particular workplace.” Keeping a CHP updated and keeping everyone informed on them will prevent an unnecessary injury.
By keeping chemicals safely contained and stored, and making it easy for employees to handle and address them, you can prevent dangerous spills that could cause serious problems. Proper containment is important for preventing dangerous spills which could lead to fires and explosions. The safety of those working in the facility is of the utmost importance, therefore preventing a hazardous emergency should be the priority.