In this Episode of Safeti School, we take a look at some tactics to help you manage hazardous substances at work safely. We’ve extracted the five points and expanded on them for you to reference.
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Assessing your Hazardous Substances
In the UK, COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’.
Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, employers need to either prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.
Hazardous Substances Podcast: Additional Resources
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COSHH - Top 5 Things to Remember
SAFETY DATA SHEETS
Read the SDS or MSDS thoroughly – all of your information from the manufacturer – sometimes this information can be quite broad in terms of the application of the substance and will usually relate to intense use of the product or worse-case scenario – so, if you can’t, get someone who can interpret it.
Separate incompatible chemicals risk of harm to health or fire hazards – This is often overlooked and not given enough priority- it’s part of the reason COSHH assessments can be so useful – because it gives you the chance to look at all of the haz substances you are using across an entire site or project – why is this important? – well, mixing Ammonia & Bleach, for example.
One of the most common hazards occurs when chlorine bleach is mixed with ammonia or acids. The combination of ammonia and bleach produces dangerous chlorine gas, which in small doses can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. In large doses, it can kill.
Make sure they are well labelled – ok, so this maybe seems obvious but its very easy for materials to be decanting or transferred to different container – what issue does this present – well firstly, it presents a risk to people of course, as they could confuse a hazardous material for something harmless and put themselves at risk.
Also, when it comes to environmental aspect, you need to be able to properly identify the material for safe and compliant disposal with your waste service provider.
You have to aim for simplicity here – there are COSHH labels out there that can be purchased which will allow you to fill in the information similar to how its presented on the original product packaging, which is what you should be aiming for.
Provide ventilation and avoid excess exposure to sun/heat/sources of ignition – heat may make the chemicals more volatile so controlling levels of heat important and maintaining good airflow reduce the risk gases or vapour accumulating.
This is not only to mitigate any risk there might be of fire and explosion, but also helps to ensure the risk of harm to health – the vapours and gases can be irritant or can be toxic and act as an asphyxiant i.e. oxygen depletion is minimised
In some cases, you might want to put some form of oxygen monitoring or gas detection in place – as you would have around your boilers for carbon monoxide.
Store the substances securely and restrict use only to those who use or manage the chemicals – this stops them from getting into the hands of people who maybe aren’t aware of the potential risks – they haven’t been trained or informed on the hazards that exist.
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