Is Your Chemical Handling Protocol Up to Date?
Are you ready to take your company’s safety plan to the next level? Chemical safety is a multi-faceted topic that involves many parts. But there is good news!
There are resources available to help you get up to speed. This guide is one of them. We provide you with everything from the basics of chemical handling to risk assessment.
By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll come out of it as an expert on the subject, ready to take your company’s safety plan to the next level. Read on and learn about chemical safety and how to help your company become safer and more efficient.
Chemical Handling Is a Dangerous Business
Many facilities use hazardous chemicals. Unfortunately, there are far too many accidents involving the storage and use of chemicals. Employees must be vigilant in the proper handling and storing of dangerous chemicals, or issues will develop.
From basic lockable storage cabinets and designated garbage containers to controlled accessibility for regulated locations, these requirements might take many different forms. Find out which laws apply and what requirements they have if any of your departments are producing or using dangerous chemicals.
Local and state building and fire codes and their applications are getting more and more complicated every year. If your business doesn’t keep up, it can be a big problem.
All businesses change and develop over time. This is another problem that is often encountered. To keep your facility’s safety up to date, you need to increase awareness of your facilities and adopt a yearly evaluation process.
Use the Right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
All businesses with chemical inventory should use PPE as needed or required. This should include lab coats and/or chemical aprons, suitable chemical-resistant gloves, eye protection, and closed-toe shoes. These are necessary when working in a laboratory environment.
Once you have your PPE in order, there are a few more things that you should consider before moving hazardous containers. Look around you. Are there any potential tripping hazards and busy workstation places?
Make sure exits, corridors, and emergency equipment locations, such as eyewash stations and safety showers, are clear and clutter-free. Keeping your facility organized and in order is vital. Here are a few tips for having a safe work area:
- Keep the work area uncluttered and clean
- Never play around or act unprofessionally
- Always apply adequate safety measures
- Never leave things like ongoing chemical reactions, sharp objects, or electrical, heating, or mechanical equipment unattended
- Follow compatibility and chemical storage guidelines
- Maintain lean, well-managed chemical inventories
- Keep corridors free of hazardous chemicals at all times
Spill Kits for Chemical Safety
A comprehensive spill kit with the appropriate neutralizers, absorbents, tools for cleanup, and trash containers should be nearby. Confirm that all chemical containers have intact, complete labels that are in good condition.
Also, have available safety data sheets (SDS) for employees. For guidance, refer to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard 1.
Spills happen. But, preparedness can keep everyone safe. Here are some basic best practices for emergency preparedness:
- Never work alone with hazardous chemicals
- Always be ready for spills
- Clean up small quantities if you have the proper training
- Only personnel with special training should handle large spills
- Keep an accessible and well-stocked chemical spill kit
- Train employees on how to use a spill kit
- Know the locations of your emergency equipment (e.g., emergency guides, first-aid kits, fire alarm pulls, and extinguishers) and how to use it
- Have accessible emergency showers and eye wash stations
Safe Transporting of Chemical Inventory
Safe chemical handling includes safely transporting them. There are steps you can take to make sure employees are moving chemicals the safe way, and reducing the risk of accidents or exposure.
If you notice degrading chemicals and containers, report these to your principal investigator or supervisor. When transporting chemicals, put the bottles in leak-proof secondary containers to prevent breakage and spills. An example would be to use a special plastic tote to transport four-liter glass bottles of solvents or corrosives.
Use strong carts when carrying several, large, or heavy containers. Make sure the cart’s wheels are strong enough to move over uneven terrain without tipping or stopping. If using carts for secondary containment, ensure that trays are liquid-tight and have enough lips on all four sides.
Avoid transporting chemicals at busy times, such as break times, lunch periods, or class changes (for academic laboratories). To avoid potential accidents on crowded elevators, move hazardous substances whenever possible using freight elevators.
When opening doors or operating elevator buttons, don’t forget to take off your gloves. Under no circumstances should you leave hazardous chemicals unattended.
Rules for Safe Chemical Storage
With any company that handles chemicals, storing chemicals in a safe way calls for attention and careful thought. It’s crucial to use containers and other basic equipment in an intended manner.
Make sure to label all chemical containers. The name of the owner or user and the date of receipt are both recommended. For each chemical, choose a specific storage location, and make sure they get returned after each use.
Volatile poisons and pungent chemicals should have storage in vented cabinets. Designate flammable liquid storage cabinets for keeping flammable liquids.
You can keep small quantities of combustible liquids in an open room. For information on acceptable limits, check with your local authority, such as the fire marshal or EH&S staff.
Sort all substances into compatible categories, paying specific attention to liquids. Take all necessary safety measures when storing incompatible items.
Post a reference chemical compatibility chart nearby chemical storage rooms. Also, place one where employees use chemicals.
For corrosive materials, use suitable resistant secondary containers. This safeguards the cabinets and will contain any spills or leaks brought on by damage. Containers should be well sealed to keep vapors inside.
For the storage of chemicals, use special refrigerators. These refrigerators should have a sign stating, “CHEMICAL STORAGE ONLY—NO FOOD.” A refrigerator should never hold flammable liquids unless it is the refrigerator’s intended purpose.
It must also have approval for this purpose. To store flammables, only use freezers that are explosion-proof and spark-free.
Things to Avoid for Chemical Safety
You should never store liquids or large heavy containers on high shelves or high in a cabinet. Storing these items at shoulder level or below is a best practice. Only store bottles on the floor if they are in secondary containment, and never store chemicals near a heat source or direct sunlight.
Fume hoods are no place to store hazardous chemicals. Too many containers will interfere with the airflow and performance of the hood. Only chemicals that are in actual use should have storage in the hood.
Storing things on top of cabinets is an accident waiting to happen. Make sure there is at least 18 inches of clearance around sprinkler heads to avoid blocking the fire suppression system.
Bench tops should contain only the chemicals currently in use. They should not be for storage. Do not store chemicals for indefinite periods.
Powders can cake or harden when it is humid. Chemical liquids will evaporate. It is important to date all containers when delivered to your facility.
Make sure to stick to all manufacturer’s expiration dates. Pay close attention to substances that are reactive or harmful. Get rid of any materials that have become worn out, hardened, evaporated, or deteriorated.
You will be well on your way to running a business that is productive, organized, and secure if you adhere to these basic rules. If you disregard them or are careless when applying them, you can find yourself one day digging through ashes or ruins.
You can prevent accidents with chemical storage if you take a few minutes to go through your facility with this list. Always put your safety first.
How to Manage Chemicals
The dangers connected with handling and storing chemical materials in your facility can decrease by adhering to a few basic rules. The day, month, and year that containers are received and opened should be used to date them. Also, workers without the necessary training should not use chemicals or equipment.
General Chemical Safety Guidelines
There are important steps to follow when handling chemicals. Use the following chemical storage guidelines for work with specific chemical hazards:
Large bottles of acids should rest on trays in cabinets or on low shelves or designated for corrosives or acids. Separate organic acids, flammable, and combustible compounds from oxidizing acids.
Separate bases from acids, and active metals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as other incompatible substances. To move acid bottles, use trolleys or bottle carriers.
In case of a spill, keep neutralizers or spill control pillows handy. Never neutralize an acid spill with bases.
Be clear when distinguishing bases from incompatible substances and acids. Large liquid base bottles should rest on trays in a cabinet with the labels “Bases” or “Corrosives.”
Use polyethylene containers to store inorganic hydroxide solutions. For caustic spills, have caustic neutralizers on hand. Never neutralize base spills with acids.
Only keep flammable liquids in a cupboard or refrigerator that has been specifically designed to be flammable-safe and keep them away from ignition sources. Equipment for controlling spills and putting out fires should always be accessible. Have a Class-D fire extinguisher on hand for flammable metals.
Keep oxidizers in a dry, cool place. Also, be sure to keep them away from combustible and flammable materials like paper, wood, etc.
Date both the opening and the receipt of the container and keep in a dark, cold, dry environment in airtight containers. Whenever necessary, use the appropriate indicator strips to check the container for the production of peroxides. Chemicals that can produce peroxide need to be disposed of before their expiration date or after it is open for a year, whichever comes first.
Keep everything upright and secure when storing. Individual chain cylinders should be 3/4 to 2/3 from the floor. Indicate whether the cylinder is full, in use, or empty, and replace the valve cap after use.
Always utilize a cylinder cart for transport. Before transportation, remove every manifold and regulator, lock the valve cap, and strap or chain the cylinder to the cart.
Communicating Hazards in Your Facility
Communicating the hazards of chemicals is important. Post warning signs near dangerous machinery, conditions, or reactions. Post near the entrance a list of chemical acronyms used on chemical container labels, including hazardous waste. If appropriate, the facility’s entry requirements for personal protective equipment should have a posting.
Be sure to label all containers in a clear way. Keep containers closed except when in use.
Basic Safety Procedures and Protocols for Hazardous Chemicals
Always evaluate the potential hazards. Before using a chemical, read the Safety Data Sheet.
For all dangerous materials, stick to the hazard control plans. Pay close attention to control measures for substances considered to be chemical carcinogens or high hazards.
You should never underestimate risk. Avoid pipetting by mouth and never use smell to detect substances. Assume all compounds with unknown toxicity are poisonous and that any combo will be more dangerous than its most poisonous component.
Make yourself and your employees aware of electrical hazards. Keep electrical panels uncluttered and accessible. Learn how your circuits are designated so that in an emergency, equipment may be de-energized fast.
Never install permanent wiring using extension cords. At the close of the workday, unplug them. Mount multi-plug adaptors a few inches off the ground to prevent any water damage.
Never connect multiple plug adaptors in a row. Any frayed or broken electrical cords must be replaced right away.
Only places labeled as clean areas should be where employees are allowed to eat, keep food, smoke, or use cosmetics. Wash your hands often, especially before meals, and tie back any loose hair.
Chemical Safety Is a Big Responsibility
We hope this guide helped you understand the importance of safe chemical handling. We know it can be a daunting task. We can help!
KHA is an expert in managing Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Since 1985, we have focused on the SDS market, and we can count hundreds of happy clients to our credit.
We take pride in maintaining a close eye on technology developments so that we can offer the most comprehensive and easy-to-use SDS management platform currently available. Contact us or check out our blog for helpful information.