The regulations surrounding the handling of chemicals in the workplace cannot be taken lightly. Regardless of the industry you work in or the type of chemicals you use, your business needs to meet a number of legal criteria to ensure the safety of everyone in your workplace.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) outlines the basic measures that businesses need to fulfill in order to safely work with chemicals. These measures ensure that you and your employees are clued up about the correct practices to adopt when handling chemicals, covering all bases.
So, with this in mind, what steps should your business take before working with chemicals?
Assess The Risks
Carrying out a risk assessment is of crucial importance. To allow you to implement the best possible protective procedures, accounting for all potential scenarios, you need to identify all chemical handling hazards involved in your line of work.
Examine the chemical products your business intends to use and ask yourself some key questions about their role in your work:
- Who will use the chemical?
- How often will the substance be in use?
- How is it used – is it sprayed, poured, etc?
- Can non-users be exposed to the chemical?
- How much will exposure to the chemical affect their health?
Your risk assessment should be a dynamic document, constantly open to editing. When new products come into circulation or procedures change, you should re-evaluate your risk assessment to keep yourself up-to-date and protected.
Employers have a legal responsibility to carry out the risk assessment, but it can be delegated to others if needs be, as long as it is thoroughly and comprehensively filled out.
Procedures and Controls
With the answers from your risk assessment all in check, you can establish all the necessary procedures and controls for workers to abide by when they work with chemicals.
Consult the best practices advised by your industry’s trade associations in order to determine the most effective procedures to implement. You should also follow the guidance of chemical manufacturers in terms of what the most appropriate storage solution is, how to use it, and how to appropriately dispose of it.
When developing your procedures and controls, categorise each risk according to its severity and think of the most appropriate measure to take to tackle it:
- Should you eliminate the use of the chemical entirely?
- Can you substitute it for a less hazardous chemical?
- If you keep it, will you need engineering controls (e.g. a designated closed, vented container for it to be used within)?
- Will administrative controls (e.g. training, PPE usage) suffice?
It is incredibly important for everyone in your workplace to be well-versed in how they should conduct themselves at every stage of the chemical handling process.
Before your business can commence any work with chemicals, your employees should all undertake rigorous training, enabling them to feel fully confident in their role, reducing the likelihood of accidents.
Training should encompass every aspect of chemical handling. Use, storage, disposal, PPE use, how to deal with emergency situations and who to report issues to are all vital topics to cover in the training programme.
Even when your employees are fully trained up, it is advisable and often necessary to have appropriate chemical hazard signage around your workplace as a constant reminder to workers and visitors to be alert.
Chemical cabinets should display warning labels to communicate that the contents are potentially harmful. Any extra regulations that need to be abided by, like the maximum volume of chemicals to be stored or instructions for proper use, can also be placed on the walls of the workspace.
To tie all your efforts together, ensuring that your chemical handling processes are streamlined, it’s important to track a full inventory of every chemical you will use in the workplace. This list needs to be incredibly comprehensive, including every chemical on the premises, where it’s located, how much of it there is, how it is used, who is exposed to it, and what risks it poses.
For every chemical you have, you should have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This must be provided by the chemical supplier when you receive the product. The SDS is an invaluable resource which tells you what the composition of the product is, what measures to take in different emergency scenarios, how to dispose of it safely, and how to transport it properly.
To make the process of creating your chemical inventory, there are plenty of chemical inventory tracking programmes you can use to help you out.
Ready To Get To Work?
Before your business can start working with chemicals, you must assure that safety will always be a priority, guaranteeing this with stringent controls and measures.
This is a guest post from Safety Training Scotland. Safety Training Scotland is a health and safety training provider that has delivered courses to over 2000 successful delegates. They strive to inform, engage, and inspire individuals from a vast range of backgrounds, from young people starting out in their careers to managing directors. Our trainers are some of the most experienced and accomplished in Scotland, applying their real world experience to the classroom setting.