Handling toxic chemicals is a dangerous business – the risk of burns, disease, and other injuries is increased exponentially when hazardous chemicals are used. 

It’s no surprise that we’re all about safety here at OHS Compliance Solutions, and one of the aspects of safety we haven’t discussed much is hazardous chemicals.

Working in the trade industry brings with it the inevitable handling of potentially harmful chemicals.

Hazardous chemicals can cause a number of acute and chronic illnesses and injuries, including respiratory diseases, chemical burns, and poisoning if accidentally ingested.

The severity of any injury is dependent on how much of the chemical entered the body, the type of chemical, and how long the exposure was for, as well as how the chemical entered or came into contact with the body in the first place

In this article, we’re going to cover some of the vital safety aspects of handling hazardous chemicals that you need to be aware of in the trade industry.

Environmental Factors

Hazardous chemicals can also have a detrimental effect on the environment through emissions, toxins entering soil or waterways, or waste.

Improper disposal of hazardous waste can lead to hefty fines for the company as well as potential injury or even death to people, flora, and fauna within the community. Ensuring this is done with care is crucial to avoid liability.

Safety Data Sheets should provide the proper guidelines on how to dispose of the chemical you’re handling.

Safety Data Sheets

One of the most important aspects of dealing with hazardous chemicals is the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

The SDS is a vital document that needs to be provided by any manufacturer or importer of dangerous chemicals.

An SDS should be freely provided by the chemical supplier and should detail the most important things you need to know about the chemical you’re handling, such as:

  • The name of the chemical
  • The physical and chemical properties of the chemical
  • How it should be handled
  • How it should be stored
  • First aid measures in case of accident /incident
  • Toxicological information, eg the toxicity of the chemical

The SDS needs to follow specific guidelines as laid out in the Model Code of Practice: Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals.

Failure to do so could result in not being compliant with Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation, which could result in massive fines or even prosecution for repeat offenders.

Any products being used that contain potentially harmful chemicals should come with an SDS provided by the manufacturer or importer. 

The SDS should contain the following information:

• The name of the product, its ingredients, and the properties of the chemical.

• The name, address, and phone number of the business that supplied the chemical, whether by local manufacture or import. The address and phone number should be based in Australia.

• The chemical’s potential effects on those handling it, including first aid measures in case an incident does occur.

• How to use the product safely.

• How to respond to an emergency situation whereby the product is unintentionally spilled or released.

• How to store the product safely.

• The date of the last time the SDS was reviewed, which is required as a minimum of every five years (if your SDS are over 5 years old they are expired and you need to obtain updated ones).

The SDS should always be presented in concise English to avoid any confusion.

The SDS can be as long or as short as it needs to be, as long as it is in compliance with the precise guidelines that are set.

How Hazardous Chemicals Can Affect Human Health

When handling toxic chemicals, it is crucial to remember that mishandling them can cause both short-term injury and long-term health issues.

Chemicals that are corrosive can cause chemical burns while airborne particles may cause asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Over time, other health conditions like cancer, nerve damage, or lung damage may develop.

This is an issue we have touched on previously in our blog about asbestos and its catastrophic effects on the human body, which you can read here if you missed it.

Other chemicals present physical dangers, like fires, corrosion, or explosions.

The trade industry can often be quite a dangerous one at the best of times, but this risk is greatly increased when using these potentially harmful chemicals at work.

As always, we strive to provide you with all the safety documents and procedures you need in order to be compliant with health and safety regulations.

For a free safety chat, contact us at sales@ohscompliancesolutions.com.au. 

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