Exposure to dangerous goods can have serious short and long-term effects on the human body. From the 9 different classes of dangerous goods, most industries see at least one type of dangerous good daily. With so many classes, there are likewise many different health risks to your employees, such as chemical burns, birth defects for their children, nervous system disorders, poisoning, and major organ disorders. For your employees, the greatest risks for exposure that they have include skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion. By reducing these risks, you can prevent horrific workplace tragedies that impact families and companies alike.
Be A Better Supervisor
Some of the risks you need to watch out for are skin contact, inhalation and ingestion.
Skin contact can happen in a variety of ways. An unfortunate worker could fall into a dangerous good, but they could also just have a dangerous good splashed or spilled on them. To reduce the potential for skin contact, you should consider implementing three controls: engineering controls, PPE, and training. For engineering controls, think of ways to reduce the potential skin exposure. A splash guard should be installed near processes using dangerous goods, for example. For PPE, supply whatever is necessary for the job, ranging from just gloves to entire hazmat suits. Lastly, train your employees on handling techniques that reduce the potential for skin contact. Pouring chemical into a funnel, for example, reduces the splash back that would come from pouring a chemical directly into another.
The main culprit here is fumes and vapors. Of course, employees can inhale the actual dangerous good in tragic accidents but reducing the potential for skin contact will also reduce such accidents. Many dangerous goods generate vapors that can burn lung tissue and severely damage the body’s inner processes. The easiest solution to reducing the potential for inhaling vapors is supplying respiratory protection. This is more cost effective than installing a widespread air filtration unit and is easier to implement on a large scale. Respiratory protection will preserve your employees’ health and make them better at their jobs, because they gain experience over time and don’t leave due to health complications.
Ingestion of dangerous goods may seem unlikely. It should be, but let’s consider the most common way dangerous goods are ingested: through contamination of food and drinks. Vapors and particles of dangerous goods can attach themselves to food and drinks placed in the open air. As the supervisor, you can reduce accidental contamination by prohibiting eating and drinking around dangerous goods.
Explain to your employees that snacking on the job is not worth being poisoned, they should only eat in the break room or outside. As well, put up signs requesting that they wash their hands before eating. Some dangerous goods are not dangerous when touched but are very much so when ingested. Remember, the body’s internal does not have the same protection that its external does.
The Most Dangerous Chemical is the Unlabeled One
When toxic chemicals are placed in an unlabeled container, it’s easy for someone to mistake it for a beverage and drink it.
Here is some advice to give your workers on ways to prevent unintentional poisonings in your workplace:
- Never use a chemical without reading the product’s material safety data sheet and its label, including instructions for use.
- If a bottle is unlabeled, leave it unopened. Even lifting the lid to sniff certain chemicals is a bad move that could lead to serious respiratory damage.
- If you find a mystery product in an unlabeled container, report it to your supervisor.
- Don’t leave any unlabeled chemical substance around, even if you know what’s in it. Instead label, return or dispose of it properly.
- Never place any chemical in anything but its original, labeled container.
- Never pour a hazardous product, such as a cleaning solution, into a sports drink container, soda bottle or coffee cup.
- Never take a swig from a container that’s not your own.
- Never place food or beverages in a refrigerator used to store hazardous chemicals.
- Never eat, drink or smoke before washing your hands. Toxic chemicals can be transferred into your body.
- If anyone accidentally ingests a chemical from a drink container, call 911 or your poison control center immediately. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear before seeking help.