If you use chemicals in the workplace, you’re probably already aware of how important the right health and safety are. You know that there are health and safety resources online that can be accessed, as well as specific workplace safety measures that must be adhered to. Most big companies that work with hazardous materials regularly already have their own plans in place when working with chemicals – and you should too. In this article, we’re going to give a brief primer on how to use chemicals safely in your workplace, but you should always consult with relevant experts and health and safety professionals when coming up with a plan for your specific business.
So what are the tips?
- Make sure the area is well ventilated
While not all chemicals need ventilation, some do. And you can’t necessarily tell just by smelling them – nor is this recommended. Some toxic chemicals are actually odourless, so you need to make sure you know what you’re working with and make sure everywhere is thoroughly ventilated. You might also need to provide masks to your employees, which ties in with our next point…
- Make sure you’ve got the right safety gear
This isn’t just limited to face masks, either. Your staff will need proper gloves as well as goggles, along with anything else that might be required for the chemicals you’re working with. You can hire some of this gear if you don’t need it for a long period. Chemicals pose a dangerous risk if handled incorrectly, and most safety gear manufacturers understand that. That is why they strive to follow strict standards when it comes to designing and manufacturing safety gear. Companies like Unigloves produce various kinds of gloves suited to match industry requirements. If you wish to find out whether the kind of gloves offered by them matches those that you require, you can first try Unigloves for free and understand if they suit your workplace needs.
- Make sure you’ve got the right equipment
Aside from having the right safety gear, you’ll also need to make sure you’re working with the right tools and equipment. Things like secure containers are a must. Don’t rely on old or partially broken tools – make sure everything is in good working order and fixed to a safe standard. You can also hire specific equipment or machinery if it isn’t something you’re going to need to use often.
- Make sure everyone is well-trained
You can’t let people work with hazardous materials unless they’ve had the correct training. Not only should they know how to work with chemicals – but they should also have full health and safety training and know what to do in emergencies.
If you need to take a bit of time to improve training, then so be it. You can send people away to specific training centers or hire people to come to your site to get them up to the right standard. It might cost a bit, but it should be a price worth paying. There’s a lot more info available online if you’re looking for a specialist to help train your staff all about safety.
- Make sure you aren’t working alone
Always work under supervision or with a few other people at the same time. You shouldn’t be left alone with hazardous materials, nor should you leave anyone else in that situation. Make sure clear and safe communication is a priority at all times.
- Make sure escape plans are clear
If you need to get out of your work quickly in an emergency, make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. Clearly signpost all exits and make sure they’re easy to reach. Try running a few mock evacuations just in case, and so everyone knows what to do – just in case.
- Make sure you know what you’re doing
Aside from having health and safety training, you also need to really know what you’re doing with the chemicals you use, along with your staff. Make sure you don’t mix anything without being sure it’s safe.
- Make sure you’ve got the right licenses if necessary
Some materials might require a license before you can work with them, so get all the correct documentation before you start. Make sure you’ve checked health and safety regulations for all the chemicals you use, along with safe working practices and guidelines.
- Get professional help if you need it
If you aren’t sure what you’re doing – find someone who is. Don’t be put off by the cost of hiring exterior consultants or experts to come in and help – either with training or actually to perform the work themselves.
- Work steadily and slowly
Don’t rush, that could be asking for trouble. Make sure you work at a methodical pace and encourage all your staff to do the same. Accidents can happen when people are rushing for deadlines, but you need to try hard to prevent this sort of situation. You’ll also want to take regular breaks, especially if you’re working for a number of hours.
- Make sure you’ve got plenty of light
You’d be surprised how many work areas are poorly lit, and this can be a safety hazard – not just when working with chemicals, either. Make sure you’ve got lots of light in your workplace so that everyone can work safely and securely.
- Make sure the area doesn’t have any obstructions
This should be a standard part of workplace safety at all times, even when you aren’t using chemicals. Making sure exits are clear and unblocked is especially important if you need to evacuate, but just having a clear workspace is important for general safety, and to improve productivity levels.
- Make sure things are labelled correctly
You don’t want to make mistakes and get the wrong chemicals mixed up, or use the wrong chemical for something it isn’t made for. Make sure you clearly label everything you work with, along with dates and other relevant information.
- Make sure chemicals are stored safely
Storage is one of the most important parts of working safely with chemicals, but you’d be surprised how many people treat it as an afterthought. Don’t be in a rush to tidy up and make sure everything has a proper and secure (locked) place. You might want to also take care that some items are not stored together if it’s dangerous to do so.
Hopefully, these tips are enough to get you started so that you can safely use chemicals in your workplace. Don’t use anything you aren’t sure of and always ask for help from an expert if you need it.