Handling Hazardous Materials

Handling Hazardous Materials

Handling materials is always a burdensome task that comes with its own unique set of hazards. Handling hazardous materials however, adds another dimension to materials handling hazards.

Even chemicals that do not have any considerable hazards have the potential to be hazardous under specific circumstances.  Employees should ensure that stock chemicals and other hazardous materials are stored properly to prevent spills, uncontrolled reactions, and minimize exposures.  Labs are particularly challenged because of the number and variety of chemicals that are handled.

So how can you ensure your staff knows how to handle hazardous materials safely? Here are some basic rules that establishments who handle hazardous materials should follow.

  1. Ensure handling procedures are established and those affected employees have been trained properly.
  2. Evaluate and observe the procedures firsthand.  Plan ahead by creating Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs) and/or specific task procedures.  Evaluate these procedures on a regular basis. Observe the tasks being performed to verify the proper procedures are being followed.
  3. Implement the usage of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensure it is being inspected prior to each use.  If damaged or worn-out equipment is found, it should be taken out of service and replaced. A change-out schedule should also be implemented to ensure each piece of PPE is not being used beyond its effective lifespan.
  4. Establish procedures to ensure all containers are properly labeled and the materials contained are in the appropriate vessel. Materials which are not properly labeled or contained should never be used, and all damaged or illegible labels should be reported and taken from service immediately.  Employees should be trained on how to read hazardous material labels properly and refer to the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to identify the material properties.
  5. Training should be delivered to all affected employees prior to the use of hazardous materials.  The topics to be covered shall include SDSs (how to read them, understand them, and locate them) and chemical labeling (what substances need to be labeled and what should be included on the label).
  6. Use materials only for their intended purpose.  Chemicals should never be used to clean your body or other equipment unless they are intended for that purpose.
  7. Proper hygiene procedures should be established and followed.  Employees should never eat or drink while handling hazardous materials. After handling materials, employees should wash their hands and face, especially prior to: eating, drinking, smoking, using cosmetics, or handling contact lenses.
  8. Implement proper housekeeping policies.  All work areas should be kept clean and washed thoroughly, at least once a shift, so the risk of contamination is minimized.
  9. Store all materials properly.  Incompatible materials should be separated from one another and all hazardous materials should be stored in dry, cool, well-ventilated area.
  10. Ensure all employees are aware of your facility’s emergency procedures and equipment.  Employees should know the procedures for: evacuations, emergency reporting, spills, fire, medical, and other emergency events.

To discuss your Environmental, Health and Safety needs, please contact: Bruce Martin

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