There are many ways in which to work with chemicals to reduce the probability of an accident and to reduce the consequences of such an accident to minimal levels. Risk minimization depends upon safe practices, appropriate engineering controls, the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment, the use of the least quantity of chemicals necessary, and when possible, the substitution of less hazardous chemicals. Essentially, chemical safety is inherently linked to other safety issues.
HAZARD VS. RISK
There is a difference between hazard and risk, although the 2 terms are frequently used synonymously. Of the two, a hazard is a much more complex concept, in that it involves conditions of use. The hazard presented by a chemical has two component considerations:
- Its inherent capacity to do harm by virtue of its toxicity, flammability, explosiveness, corrosiveness, etc.
- The ease with which the chemical can come into contact with a person or object of concern.
The 2 components combined determine risk, i.e., the likelihood or probability that a chemical will cause harm. Thus, an extremely toxic chemical such as strychnine cannot cause poisoning if it is sealed in a container and does not contact the handler: High hazard, low risk. In contrast, a chemical that is not highly toxic but comes in contact with the handler’s skin over a long period of time can be lethal: Low hazard, high risk.
CHEMICAL SAFETY GUIDELINES
- Assume that any unfamiliar chemical is hazardous.
- Know all the hazards of the chemicals that you work with.
- Consider each mixture of chemicals to be at least as hazardous as its most hazardous component chemical.
- Never use any substance that is not properly labeled.
- Follow all chemical safety instructions precisely.
- Minimize your exposure to any chemical, regardless of its hazard rating.
- Use personal protective equipment as appropriate.
- Avoid repeated exposure to any chemical is unprotected.
CHEMICAL HANDLING GUIDELINES
When working with chemicals:
- Remove and use only the amount of chemicals needed for the immediate job at hand.
- Properly seal, label, and store chemicals in appropriate containers.
- Check stored chemicals for deterioration and broken containers.
- Do not store chemicals near heat or sunlight or near substances which might initiate a dangerous reaction if combined.
- Do not pour hazardous chemicals down sink drains.
- Clean-up spills and leaks immediately, using only established spill procedures.
- Be aware of emergency procedures which have implications for hazardous chemical exposures and spills.
- Dispose of chemicals using only established disposal procedures.