There are many industries in the manufacturing sector that require the use of harmful chemicals in their production processes. The automotive industry is one of them.
The processing operation requires the employees to work with chemicals that are hazardous and present high health risks in case of exposure.chemicals that are hazardous and present high health risks in case of exposure.
These chemicals exist in various forms; they can be solids, powders, liquids or gases, pure chemicals or mixtures. Depending on the form they exist in, these chemicals can enter the body through various means depending on how they are used.
Employees exposed to these harmful chemicals while carrying out their duties can suffer effects that may not manifest for many years but are health problems nonetheless.
The common risks resulting from the work that involves handling hazardous chemicals include poisoning, irritation, chemical burns, cancer, and even birth defects. The lungs, skin, liver, kidneys and the nervous system, are all in danger of being affected by the unprotected exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The use of asbestos in the production of brakes and clutches, for example, can be considered a health threat according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Asbestos has been known to cause lung cancer in humans. These suspicions have led to stringent regulations controlling the production of brakes and clutches. There are now closely monitored measures that oversee the assembly, inspection, disassembly and repairs.
The extent to which an employee will suffer from exposure to a potentially hazardous chemical depends on the level of exposure. The following guide illustrates proper methods through which the workplace can be kept safe by reducing risks and limiting the chances of accidents happening.
1. Ensuring the use of a Globally Harmonized System of Classification and labelling of Chemicals (GHS)
Under this system which is controlled by the WHS regulations, an effective system of naming and categorising dangerous chemicals is established. This is done with the use of safety data sheets (SDS) in line with the GHS. This gives a clear categorisation of hazardous substances both in the workplace or chemical labs under the GHS.
Hazardous chemicals also cover the chemicals that fall under the category of harmful goods on the ADG code. Under the WHS regulations, it is the responsibility of the individual handling these hazardous chemicals and other dangerous goods to prevent accidents and neutralise all the potential risks.
2. Identify and categorise the hazardous chemicals
A good inventory of all the chemicals that are used in the workplace is a good way to begin the process of reducing potential risks from chemical accidents.
Getting more information on the chemicals can be done by reading the labels and looking at the records on the Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Knowing the precise chemical composition means the potential hazards can be ascertained.
The chemical classification exercise is done by the manufacturer or the importer to indicate the information that should be written on the labels and the SDS.
Other useful information that helps the employee understand what kind of dangerous substance they are dealing with include the indicated label components, hazard statements, and useful pictograms with vivid illustrations.
It is mandatory that the manufacturers and the importers conduct a review of the information provided on the labels of hazardous chemicals and their SDS every five years.
3. Accurate labelling of all chemical containers
The label gives the immediate information about the contents of the container. From this information, it can be quickly determined if this chemical is hazardous or not. Chemical containers that have been wrongly labelled or not labelled should be immediately removed or isolated until the contents have been identified and the hazardous nature confirmed.
If the contents of the container cannot be properly identified, it should be properly disposed of in accordance with the professional waste disposal statutes for chemical and industrial waste.
If the content of the container is identified, the container should be properly labelled before they are brought back into the workplace.
There are several methods used to indicate containers that are used for decantation during the manufacturing process, they should be labelled with a bold caution sign for everyone’s safety. These containers are usually used for mixing chemicals and also for collecting waste chemicals. The boldly written “caution” label on them can be seen by every employee in the workplace.
4. Risk Assessment
There are no strict instructions for risk assessment under the WHS regulations. However, a risk assessment might be the best way to come up with measures that should be implemented to control potential risks in the workplace.
A good risk assessment identifies:
- the lapses in the safety measures
- the potential risks faced by the employees
- what can be done to prevent this from happening.
It also includes assessing the current safety measures that are active within the environment.
Risk assessment also covers assessing the working condition of equipment used in the workplace in order to prevent any malfunctions. The information obtained from a comprehensive risk assessment is useful in planning ahead, reducing potential risks and improving the safety measures for the employees.
5. Eliminate all hazards
This is the most effective way of preserving lives in the workplace. All potentially or confirmed hazardous substances should be removed from the workplace.
6. Find alternatives for hazardous chemicals and substances
There must be a chemical that can be used for the industrial processes, less hazardous and easier to handle. These substitutes should be used instead of the dangerous chemicals.
This also applies to highly flammable chemicals; using substitutes that are less flammable makes the workplace safer for the employees.
Other good substitutes include the use of diluted chemicals in place of the highly concentrated and corrosive chemicals. Chemicals in powdered form can be dangerous when inhaled; substitutes like pastes can be used in place of these chemicals.
7. Remove hazardous chemicals to a safe place
Taking chemicals away from areas where they can be easily reached and keeping them far away from people is a good idea as this reduces the chances of exposure.
Chemicals should also be kept away from other chemicals with which they can cause an explosive reaction when mixed together. This can be done by keeping them at different locations and separating the containers with formidable barriers. It is important to know which chemicals react to each other.
Hazardous chemicals can be safely kept away in the following ways:
- The use of contained systems which are sealed and safe.
- Potentially hazardous chemical operations should be carried out in an isolated place far away from people, and only well-protected experience employees should be allowed access to these places.
- The use of pressure cabins to protect the employees from contamination while carrying out their duties
- Keeping employees who have no training with hazardous chemicals away from areas where they are being used
Care should be taken to store hazardous chemicals in isolated places where they do not come in contact with other chemicals or compounds that can lead to dangerous reactions.
It is important that hazardous chemicals be kept away from food, drinks, and sources of drinking water, clothes, medication, toiletries, cosmetics and all other items that are used personally.
8. Adopting effective engineering controls
Engineering controls include all the mechanical equipment and innovations that are used to prevent accidents from the use of hazardous chemicals.
They are designed to reduce the risks of using these chemicals, and also contain any accidental spills and limit the danger to the employees. There are usually automated systems installed in the workplace.
9. Adopt a system of mandatory regular medical checks
Regular medical and health checks monitor the health status of all employees working with potentially hazardous chemicals. These allow for the health risks to be caught early on and to keep the employees healthy.
Another aim is to perform a risk assessment and also determine the precise effects that the exposure has on the employees. The information from these checks is used to implement better and more effective protection measures in the workplace.
10. A good emergency response system
A good emergency plan must be in place when the quantities of hazardous chemicals in use reach levels that can be catastrophic in the event of an accident.
The main goal of the emergency plan is to reduce the effects of any chemical accidents and to preserve the lives of the concerned employees. A good emergency plan should be made with the following factors put into consideration:
- The nature of the industrial processes done in the workplace
- The type of hazards that can happen in the workplace
- The location and size of the workplace
- The number of employees that needs to be evacuated in the case of an emergency.
11. Having reliable standby emergency equipment in the workplace
Depending on the nature of work being done, the necessary emergency and safety equipment must always be readily available in the workplace. It needs to be sufficient to contain spills, explosions or fire outbreak.
The employees must undergo the proper training on how to use all the emergency safety equipment. This equipment must be kept very close to the areas where these hazardous chemicals are being used.
12. Proper handling, transportation, and storage of hazardous chemicals
Employees come very close to these chemicals when they need to handle the containers for either use in production or transportation from one location to another.
Chemicals used in large quantities should be supplied in bulk and transported using cranes and other mechanical methods that prevent the employees from having direct physical contact with the containers and chemicals themselves.
13. Have all machines properly maintained and the parts properly washed
All machines that come in contact with hazardous chemicals are to be properly maintained and cleaned. Chemical residues can cause harm to workers and therefore, need to be completely removed from any machine, equipment, or surface in the workplace.
Even machine parts need to be cleaned and washed professionally – not with the bare hands of employees.
This ensures a safer workplace where you clean equipment parts without anyone from your staff having to breathe or soak their hands in dangerous cleaning chemicals such as hydrocarbons.
Quite simply, Alsco’s Ecosafe Washer is the safe, economical solution to cleaning oils, greases, and potentially hazardous chemicals off mechanical parts without the need for harmful solvents.
At Alsco, we believe our products should not only rid your machine parts of oil and grease but also keep your health and safety in check. Alsco’s Ecosafe Washer is an aqueous based parts cleaner. Unlike solvent cleaners, it is NOT harmful to the user or the environment.
Gone are the days one or two or three of your staff had to breathe in vapours off solvents and immerse their hands into harmful chemicals to clean your equipment parts. You now have a safer, eco-friendlier alternative with the Alsco Ecosafe Washer.
Ensure your workplace safety and call Alsco today – let us help you find green and healthy solutions for your industrial workplace.