Did you know, that every year in the U.K., thousands of workers develop a variety of physical and mental ailments as a result of direct exposure or inhalation of hazardous substances? Asbestosis and Mesothelioma are two of the most commonly reported health conditions from workers. In fact, the UK Chemical Reactions Hazards forum has hundreds of reported chemical incidents and near misses on industrial sites.
Chemical safety can pose a serious threat of accident and injury in the workplace, so it’s important to ensure that every precaution is in place to minimise the risk of such incidents occurring. Conducting regular chemical risk assessments in the workplace can help you to do just so. We’ve devised the following guide to help you understand how to perform a chemical risk assessment and the actions that you need to take afterwards.
- Identify the Chemical Hazards
- Consider all potential chemical hazards in the workplace, even chemical fumes which can arise from manufacturing processes such as welding. All chemicals on the premises, including paints and solvents, should be considered in your assessment.
- Consider the hazardous properties of any chemical substance on the premises, how it will be stored, how much is stored on site and any potential uses which could arise from its presence or storage.
- Assess your hazardous waste disposal methods and note any potential hazards.
- Ask yourself questions like: Are there any restrictions around the use of chemicals in the workplace? Should there be?
- Identify Who May Be Affected
- Consider all employees, even maintenance staff, suppliers or customers who may come into contact with any chemicals on your business premises.
- Check that staff members who are required to use chemicals have had appropriate chemical safety training.
- Do any of your employees need special consideration with regards to their contact with chemicals in the workplace? For example, employees with medical conditions such as asthma, contact lens wearers and female employees who are pregnant, will need to ensure that they have minimal contact with several chemicals. Do you have foreign workers? Will language be a barrier in relation to reading and acknowledging chemical safety signage?
- Decide On Precautions
Based on your assessment of the potential hazards in the workplace, map out some preventative measures and actions to take. As a result of your notes, ask yourself questions such as the following:
- Do you need to reduce the number of chemicals stored on site?
- Do you need to amend current chemical safety procedures?
- Do staff need training, or even more extensive training than they currently have?
- Do you need to set up additional chemical signage?
- Do you need to reconsider the seniority of staff members who handle chemicals?
- Are first aid kits and wash stations positioned in the right locations? Should you introduce more wash station and first aid points?
- Is there a requirement for PPE (personal protective equipment)?
- Should additional ventilation be added to the premises?
- Can you introduce a more effective hazardous waste management process?
- Prepare & Publish Chemical Risk Assessment
- Prepare a full Chemical Risk Assessment Report including a list of chemical risks identified, the people who may be affected and the preventative measures or actions drafted to minimise risk.
- Copies of this report should be made available to all employees. In the event of a chemical inspection from a governing body, the inspector will ask and expect to see evidence of regular Chemical Risk Assessment reports.
We hope this blog post serves as a useful guide to those who are responsible for conducting risk assessments in the workplace. No matter the size of your business, if you store chemicals on site, you need to perform regular chemical safety risk assessments.