Ensuring Safe Handling and Storage of Hazardous Chemicals at Your Business
by Tracey Stepanchuk
Safe handling and storage of hazardous chemicals is a requirement for every type of business in the United States. Whether you're in farming, construction, manufacturing or service, you're likely to work with a range of substances that have the potential to be harmful.
As noted by the New York State Department of Health, chemicals that are benign on their own can do damage in certain circumstances, like if they are exposed to air or other elements or materials. Therefore, it's extremely important to know how to handle and store all chemicals in the workplace.
One way for business owners to be in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) requirements is to base the management processes on three main points:
- Minimizing Exposure
- Using Proper Control Measures
- Not Underestimating Risks
By training your workers to consider whether every action involving handling and storage of hazardous chemicals complies with these three criteria, you can ensure good management (even if employees don't have access to specific protocols at the time of handling).
Safe Handling Tips
- General safety tips for proper handling apply to most types of chemicals. These guidelines include:
- Ensuring controlled access to the substances by people trained in correct handling procedures and authorized to work with them.
- Wearing protective clothing and handling equipment when working with substances, to avoid physical contact.
- Making use of appropriate storage options to prevent leaks and spills.
Different types of chemicals have their own specific handling and storage requirements to combat issues such as flammability or corrosive capabilities. Be sure to follow these requirements closely, to ensure the safety of your employees and business.
Where to Find Resources
If you're looking for information on the handling and storage of specific chemicals, you can visit the following websites:
University of Berkeley Environmental Health and Safety's Chemical Storage Booklet: This publication provides detailed information on taking inventory, labeling chemicals and segregating incompatible components. It also gives specific storage processes for combustibles, corrosives, toxic substances, explosives, cryogens, flammables and pyrophorics.
Convergence Training: This company offers a range of health and safety video-based training courses on the handling and storage of hazardous chemicals. For example, a course on the management of corrosives is available at the cost of $19 per user or $149 for outright purchase in a USB format, which can be used in group training environments.
You can find out more about the hazardous properties of chemicals with the free downloadable pocket guide from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The PDF version (which you can install on your smartphone) provides all the information you need when you're dealing with unfamiliar substances.
Encouraging Best Practices
Training is vital to ensure your workers follow best practices, but simply providing the information is often not enough. Motivate employees to follow protocols by providing encouragement such as an accident-free hours board — updated daily — with an incentive attached to achieving the targeted number. It doesn't have to be financial; the reward could be an extra day off a year or a dinner on-site for the staff.
It's about maintaining a focus on the safe handling and storage of hazardous chemicals, avoiding short cuts and paying daily attention to important issues. Incentives improve the chances of your workers checking the processes for each of the materials they work with, and it reminds them to follow the best possible practices.
Ultimately, careful management of these issues is not only beneficial to your employees' health and safety, but it can help boost profitability. If your company can avoid losses from downtime and industrial accidents, you could enjoy a greater sense of security.