Despite the presence of COSHH legislation in the U.K., there are still thousands of chemical incidents every year in workplaces. While the majority of these incidents are fortunately minor, many of these chemicals incidents could have easily prevented. The most common reason behind minor chemical incidents in the workplace is due to a lack of chemical awareness on the part of one or more workers. Chemicals are widely used in virtually every workplace in some make, shape or form. In industries such as manufacturing, construction, agriculture and mining, the use of chemicals is even more prolific.
Establishing chemical awareness in a workplace is a very important safety obligation of any employer. However, many struggle to establish an effective system of doing so. As chemical storage and safety experts with decades of experience promoting chemical safety, we believe that there are 6 key ways to easily ensure promotion of chemical safety awareness in the workplace.
Ensure Co-Operation Between Management & Workers
A key element to promoting chemical awareness in the workplace is to ensure co-operation between management and workers. Management must lead by example when it comes to chemical safety, in order to promote a similar safety behaviour among their workers. Managers should make it their responsibility to continously assess the level of chemical awareness in the workplace and identify any gaps. Workers also need to communicate to managers if they recognise any chemical awareness gaps among their fellow colleagues. After all, ensuring complete chemical awareness is a team effort, and is necessary for ensuring the safety of the entire team.
Installation of Chemical Signage & Labels
The consistent danger posed by hazardous chemicals should be promoted throughout the workplace using appropriate chemical signage. Furthermore, employees understanding of the different chemical signs in the workplace should regularly be evaluated to ensure that staff fully understand and can comply with your chemical safety system. All chemicals in the workplace should be adequately labelled and labels should indicate any potential hazards.
Presence of Chemical Safety Data Sheets
It is virtually impossible for your employees to remember the hazards posed by every single, different chemical stored and used in the workplace. Therefore, it is essential, and indeed legal regulations require, that chemical safety data sheets are present in businesses where chemicals are used and stored. Chemical Safety Data Sheets provide useful information on chemicals, explain the hazards that a chemical presents, and provide information on handling, storage and emergency procedures in case of an accident with a particular chemical.
Regular Chemical Safety Training
Management and workers need not only to be initially trained on chemical safety measures in the workplace, but to receive regular, ongoing training to further develop their knowledge of chemical safety procedures and to ensure that chemical safety awareness is always to the forefront of their mind.
Maintain a Chemical Incident Reporting System
It is important to ensure that all employees log any chemical incident in the workplace, no matter how minor. Incident reports provide another means for employers to identify any gaps in chemical safety awareness among employees. The requirement to log chemical incidents will also promote and reinforce the importance of chemical safety in the minds of the workers.
Requirement to Complete Chemical Storage & Use Logs
Another way to ensure that chemical safety is consistently at the forefront of the minds of employees is to implement a requirement in the workplace for chemical storage and chemical use logs to be completed. Employers should also ensure that workers complete a chemical disposal log. Getting employees into a habit of logging their use of chemicals will also enable employers to monitor any gaps in chemical safety awareness i.e. if one employee is logging that they are storing a chemical in the incorrect place, an employer can identify that this employee does not have an appropriate level of chemical safety awareness.