Know more about chemical hazards, the definition, types, and examples. Discover how businesses can implement control measures to reduce employee exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Published 27 Jan 2023
A chemical hazard is any substance, regardless of its form—that can potentially cause physical and health hazards to people, or can result in harm to the environment. It can also be defined as the actual risk associated with specific chemicals, such as skin burns, long-term negative impact to health, lasting environmental damage, fires, or even explosions.
According to Safe Work Australia and the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it is important that employees are aware of the risks and hazards associated with their daily work. Hazard recognition also reduces the chance of exposure to hazardous chemicals and the injuries they can bring.
Although there are several types of chemical hazards that have been generally identified, the following are the chemicals commonly found in the workplace:
Exposure to hazardous chemicals in workplaces can result in adverse health conditions including headache, difficulty in breathing, skin irritation, severe allergic reaction, and other more serious and long-lasting side effects.
Although most hazardous chemicals are easily identifiable, some of them may be used on a daily basis with workers not having prior knowledge of their potential negative effects. Examples of hazardous chemicals in workplace include:
Workplaces—especially manufacturing or other related industries—can’t totally eliminate or avoid the use of all hazardous chemicals. What businesses can do to protect their workers however, is to follow and observe safety measures that aim to control the chemical hazards in workplaces and reduce their potential negative impact on employees.
The following are some preventive measures and other helpful tips on how to proactively maintain a safe working environment for you and your employees:
Primarily, businesses will have to identify hazardous chemicals that are present in the workplace. Some are obvious and easy to recognize, while others are not initially evident. With this process, you’ll have a well-grounded basis on how to best handle each chemical while also allowing your workers to practice safety measures on their own.
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Once the hazards are identified, there should be an evaluation of the risks associated with those chemicals, along with the likelihood of those risks occurring. Through a comprehensive risk assessment, businesses will also be able to identify the severity of the risks’ consequences, should they end up happening. This process can be a great deciding factor on which risks should be prioritized and resolved first.
This is the part where businesses will have to decide on how to manage or control the risks identified. When dealing with chemical hazards in workplaces, you must follow the principle of the hierarchy of controls. This concept gives the order or level of how you can potentially control each specific risk. This is the order of the hierarchy and their definitions:
Businesses should also have comprehensive and standard control measures that can be followed by all involved personnel and employees to prevent any hazardous effects of chemicals. These measures also help ensure that all relevant stakeholders are on the same page when it comes to chemical safety.
According to the OSHA, and in compliance with the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), it is required by law that all chemicals have a label that not only includes what kind of chemical they are, but also the type of hazard associated with them. This is called GHS Pictograms, a safety symbols labeling system that is specific to chemicals.
For all of these efforts to be effective, businesses must perform regular inspections to ensure that they are being followed and consistently practiced. Safety audits can also be a great determining factor to know which control measures work and which don’t. Examples of helpful inspections related to chemicals include chemical safety audits and hazardous materials inspections.
Ensure safe handling and controlling of hazardous chemicals in your workplace with the use of a digital safety platform. SafetyCulture is a powerful inspection and auditing tool that businesses can use to implement safety measures with regard to rules and regulations surrounding chemical hazards. SafetyCulture is best utilized in the various processes involved in managing potential negative impacts of hazardous chemicals and can further help you do the following:
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This chemical hazard checklist is made by Mitti, a technology-first insurance company. Business owners, safety managers, and employees can use this checklist to regularly inspect if implemented rules are being followed. Use this hospitality chemical inspection checklist in SafetyCulture to do the following:
Check out other helpful checklists for chemical hazards:
Jaydee Reyes is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. Her six-year experience in the field of data research and media monitoring adds expertise and quality to her work. She is also a champion of leveraging technology to promote a culture of safety in workplaces around the world. As a content specialist, she aims to help companies adapt to digital changes through interesting and informational articles.
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