No matter how big or small your business is, the safety of your employees should be one of your most important priorities as a business owner. Not only does this offer both you and them peace of mind. But it can also save you from worker’s compensation claims, extended lawsuit battles, and thousands of dollars.
A huge component of employee safety is putting the best measures in place in order to reduce risk. And if your business works with hazardous chemicals on a daily basis, the reality is that chemical accidents can happen at any time.
There’s a reason they’re called accidents — because no one sees them coming. However, you can avoid this in the workplace with the right safety measures. Learn more in this blog.
1. Avoid Chemical Accidents with Regular Training and Resources
Any business owner will tell you that injuries in the workplace tend to occur when staff just don’t know what they’re doing. This is why Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) practices should be integral to your business. Especially if you operate within a higher-risk industry.
The worst thing you can do as a business owner assumes your employees know what to do during chemical accidents or spills. You must take safety into your own hands. This starts with regular employee training and briefing on all standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Whether an employee is new or well-seasoned, training and safety protocol updates are important on a regular basis. You should also post notices and signage in visible areas outlining chemical accident SOPs. This way, your employees have something they can quickly refer to in an emergency.
Educate your employees on the four different types of chemical exposure: inhalation, injection, ingestion, and absorption. Brief them on how to use safety equipment and how to protect themselves.
Teach your employees how to use material safety data sheets as a reference. If you want to outsource your material safety management, here’s how to choose the best MSDS management company.
2. Make Sure Everything Is Clearly Labeled
The simple act of correctly labeling all chemicals could mean the difference between saving someone’s life or risking it.
It’s no secret that many chemicals may look alike, whether it’s the color, viscosity, or nature of the chemical. This is why it’s so important to routinely check container labels and ensure they’re accurate.
By doing so, you can prevent accidents such as mixing the wrong chemicals. As well as improper disposal or using the wrong chemical for a simple task.
You also want to use material safety data sheets (MSDS) to help with this and keep them in an accessible place for all employees. Brief employees on important handling protocols, such as consulting the MSDS every time they work with a chemical.
3. Store Your Chemicals Wisely
You always want to keep tabs on the location of all your chemicals — whether they’re in use, or not. Where and how you store chemicals in the workplace plays a huge role in employee safety.
Make sure that certain chemical containers sit with the right chemicals. You don’t the wrong chemicals to mix or come into contact with each other. It’s also wise to ensure that there is enough ventilation or draining in chemical storage units in the case of spillage. The same goes for workrooms and workshops to ensure your employees are not breathing in harsh chemicals.
This is where exhaust vents are mandatory in all chemical handling work areas.
4. Keep Emergency Safety Equipment in Top Condition
As an employer, it’s on you and your staff to regularly check that all of your emergency safety equipment is working as it should be. According to the OSHA guidelines, all safety equipment should be ready and on-hand, and fully functional in the case of any emergency.
You should also offer an emergency eyewash station in key areas of your workplace. This helps to prevent eye damage or blindness if employees sustain chemicals splashes to the face. Make sure all fire extinguishers and fire hoses are routinely inspected and ready to go as needed.
Ensure that safety gear and emergency safety equipment are always in plain, obvious site and remain unhindered at all times.
5. Keep Your Workplace Neat and Clean
A safe workplace is one that is spotless and tidy. A space that’s unorganized, cluttered, and dirty could increase your chances of chemical accidents. So if you aim to avoid unnecessary spills, falls, trip hazards, or mixing of chemicals, make sure your work area is kept clean and tidy at all times.
It’s important to designate clear disposal areas. This way, employees know where and how to dispose of chemicals, without accidents. You may also need to provide a facility where workers can change into biohazardous protective clothing in order to do their work.
Make sure your employees know to change their clothes before leaving the work premises. This is the best way to avoid exposing themselves and their family members to dangerous chemicals.
6. Keep Food and Drink Away From Work Stations
It’s also important to ensure that everything your employees eat had drink remains uncontaminated. For this reason, you want to clearly designate a specific area for eating and drinking for your employees. And this area should be situated a good distance from anywhere that handles chemicals in your workplace.
Make sure your employees follow strict self-hygiene guidelines. They must not wear biohazard suits that could be contaminated in these areas. Outline health and safety rules such as washing hands before eating and drinking anything.
Ensure that there are enough wash stations to suit your employee complement so that everyone can practice good self-hygiene.
Establish a Responsibility Chain of Command
This is essential so that your employees know exactly how to react in the case of an emergency. A chain of command ensures that employees at each level understand their responsibilities when it comes to accident situations.
Outline how each employee should report an accident or an emergency when it occurs. Take some time to plan out this chain of command with your health and safety officers to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Don’t forget to designate a list of alternatives for accident reporting should a supervisor not be at work on any given day.
Make Business Health and Safety Your Top Priority
Chemical accidents are not always fatal, but they can have dire consequences for the employees involved in them. Just some of these include life-long burns, loss of sight, touch, nerve damage, and more. This is why your workplace safety needs to be a number one priority.
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