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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

3 rules for chemical safety in the workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires every company or lab that handles dangerous chemicals to have a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) that is industry-specific and tailored toward the needs of that company or lab.

However, just having a CHP isn't enough to keep workers safe. Employers need to make sure that they follow through with certain additional steps to supplement the CHP:

1. Make sure that employees all know the signs of chemical exposure.

In the movies, chemical burns are instantly painful and obvious -- but many burns actually take a while to develop, and their severity may depend on a combination of the chemical type and the length of exposure.

More seasoned employees may be aware of the early signs of chemical contact on the skin -- but newer employees may not realize that annoying itch on their hand is actually the start of a serious burn. Other common symptoms of chemical exposure include flushed or blanched looking skin, numbness, blisters or pain.

2. High-quality safety gear should always be worn when handling chemicals.

There is no excuse for an employee to have to handle chemical containers with their bare hands or basic work gloves. The company needs to make certain that every employee has access to -- and is wearing -- the right safety gear when handling chemical containers.

In addition to hand and arm coverings, breathing masks and eye shields may be necessary with some of the chemicals that can produce toxic fumes. Breathing in the toxic fumes from a caustic chemical causes the same reaction inside your lungs that spilling the chemical on your skin might cause.

3. Emergency drills should be practiced on a regular basis.

Having a CHP doesn't do any good if nobody remembers to use it once a spill does happen.

Safety drills should take place often enough for everyone in the plant to know what his or her role in the procedure should be -- even if it is just to get out of the way while the designated people handle containment issues and perform first aid on any victims.

If you become the victim of a chemical burn at your place of employment and you weren't adequately warned about the dangers, given proper safety gear or taught what to do in the event of exposure, an attorney can provide information about the possibility of a workplace safety claim.

Source: ReliablePlant, "9 Tips for Safely Storing Chemicals," accessed May 10, 2017

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