Chemical Safety

What is a chemical?

A chemical is a distinct compound or substance, especially one that has been artificially prepared or purified. Chemicals are in our everyday lives both at work and home. Some pose serious health risks when they are inhaled or make direct contact with humans. For this reason, industry and regulatory agencies have established regulations and permissible exposure limits (PEL) so employers and employees can identify chemical hazards. Additionally, chemical manufacturers are required to provide container labels and safety data which is detailed on what are called safety data sheets (SDS) to further assist users in understanding the risk of chemicals and safe practices when handling them.

What hazards are associated with chemicals?

Each chemical has its own unique health risks and hazards. Some of the most common hazards associated with chemicals include:

1. Fire and explosion
2. Corrosion
3. Chemical burns
4. Loss of eyesight
5. Loss of taste and smell
6. Damage to vital organs
7. Suffocation
8. Death
9. Special implications for pregnant or nursing women

What controls may be used to protect yourself from chemicals?

1. Ensure that safety data sheets (SDS) and labels are present for chemicals used or stored on the job
2. Ensure chemicals are properly stored away from food, drink and clothing areas
3. Keep chemicals away from ignition sources at all times
4. Ensure personal protective equipment such as goggles, gloves, boots, aprons and respirators are used as required
5. Ask your supervisor if you are not sure when to use personal protective equipment
6. Be on the lookout for any sign of chemical hazards and evacuate / report them immediately
7. Never handle a chemical unless you are confident that you know the risk and correct procedure for handling the chemical
8. Avoid the use of all chemicals if you are nursing or pregnant

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