Hazardous substances used in the workplace will and often have caused harm to the health of employees and others not directly associated with the activities, where exposure has not been properly controlled. Exposure may cause short or long-term health problems. It can be many years before symptoms become apparent, and even more difficult to relate them back to an individual’s historical work activities.
Hazardous substances themselves cover a surprisingly large spectrum of materials, and not all are man-made and many are the result of processes applied to inert materials (i.e. drilling operations). A few common examples are listed below
•Oils and greases
•Glues and adhesives
•Paints and varnishes
•Petrol and diesel
•Sand and cement
•Substances generated during work activities (e.g. fumes from soldering and welding or dust from grinding)
•Naturally occurring substances (e.g. grain dust)
•Sewage and effluent
and many, many other substances.
Examples of the effects of hazardous substances include:
•skin irritation or dermatitis as a result of skin contact
•asthma as a result of developing allergy to substances used at work
•losing consciousness as a result of being overcome by toxic fumes
•cancer, which may appear long after the exposure to the chemical that caused it, and
•infection from bacteria and other micro-organisms (biological agents).
A hazardous material safety data sheet should be supplied with any hazardous substance at its delivery location. MSDS sheets should always be available to all members of staff and others who may require to handle, move or use the hazardous substance, etc.
The MSDS contains guidelines on what should be done if the hazardous substance accidentally comes into contact with your skin, your eyes, or is ingested orally or possibly absorbed through the skin. It will also include other safety precautions such as what to do about spillages or leaks. Warning labels will be used to classify the types of hazard, such as irritant, flammable, very flammable, toxic, very toxic, corrosive, explosive, sensitising, dangerous to the environment, etc
The following is a useful list of, Do’s and Don'ts for Chemical Handling;
•Do check the container label before using,
•Do use appropriate protective clothing and equipment,
•Do open containers carefully, in a well ventilated area (beware of pressure building up in containers),
•Do know and understand the hazards of the chemical you are using,
•Do make sure your actions are authorised by your supervisor and or manager,
•Do understand COSHH Risk Assessment detail and work safely to ensure minimum risk for yourself, your colleagues and others who may be affected,
•Do clean up minor spillages,
•Do ensure you report major spillages,
•If in doubt consult with your supervisor and or manager.
•Don’t use chemicals if the container labels are missing or damaged so that key information is illegible,
•Don’t use contaminated or unsuitable mixing or measuring equipment,
•Don’t eat, drink or smoke when handling or using chemicals.
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