An Overview of Chemical Hazards in the Workplace

chemical hazards

You’ve been working in the same factory for years now. So when you get sick, you don’t immediately pinpoint the root of the cause as your place of employment. That is until you go to the doctor.

Apparently, you’ve been exposed to so many chemicals on a daily basis that it’s had a negative impact on your health. If things keep going as they are, your condition may become worse.

What are common chemical hazards, and how do you avoid them when you begin taking shifts again? We’ve got all the answers right here. Check out this guide to learn more.

Common Chemical Hazards

A chemical hazard is any substance that can cause harm to your physical wellness or health in general. Employers have an obligation to put a chemical hazard sign on these substances, but even so, it’s easy to come into contact with them.

Substances such as arsenic, lead, benzene, chromium, and toluene are commonly found in most workplaces despite what SDS management is in place.

You can go here to learn more about how SDS management works. For now, let’s go into more detail about the chemicals mentioned above.

Arsenic

Arsenic is a solid substance that finds its home in facilities that center around electronics, agriculture, glass production, and wood preservatives.

Long exposure to arsenic can result in damage to your nervous system, circulatory and respiratory issues, and in extreme circumstances, cancer.

Benzene

Benzene is a liquid that’s a common product of forest fires and volcanos. It’s also used in the production of pesticides, plastics, and detergents.

If you’re exposed to this chemical, your immune system will suffer from it. You may experience unusual amounts of bleeding, anemia, and damage to your bone marrow.

Lead

Lead is a solid substance that you may find in your car battery. It’s also in electronics, roofing materials, statues, sailboats, and ammunition.

Long-term exposure to lead can cause birth defects, brain damage, anemia, and kidney disease.

Toluene

Toluene is a liquid chemical that’s found in fingernail polish remover, paint thinners, white-out, explosives, inks, stain removers, leather tanning, printing, and glue.

If you breathe in this chemical, you might become dizzy and confused. It can also make you feel anxious, which will lead to insomnia. On top of that, you could experience numbness, liver and kidney damage, and dermatitis.

Chromium

Chromium is a solid that is often mixed with other metals such as stainless steel. It’s also used as a coating to stop metals from rusting.

Chromium can irritate the respiratory system, cause asthma and cancer, and damage the kidneys, liver, eyes, and eardrums.

How Do the Chemicals Get into a Person’s Body?

chemical hazards

If you’re careful, you can keep your exposure to workplace chemicals to a minimum. The number one way to control how many chemicals get into your body is knowing how they get there in the first place.

The three main culprits are ingestion, fume exposure, and long-term exposure.

Poison Ingestion

You’re about halfway through your shift. You’ve been working with heavy machinery all day, which works up quite a thirst. You spot a water bottle on the factory floor and take a huge glug out of it.

What you didn’t know is that the bottle was full of a dangerous chemical. This scenario is more common than you think. Workplaces don’t train their employees on proper chemical storage.

This results in them putting the substances in containers that look like they should store food and drink. They also don’t label them properly. The containers then get put in places where they have no business being.

Fume Exposure

When you’re working with dangerous chemicals, you must always wear some kind of protective device. If the device is broken, report it to your supervisor right away. Faulty equipment won’t prevent you from inhaling fumes.

Breathing in the fumes can do an incredible amount of harm to your body. Most of the time, it results in a nasty chemical burn in your lungs.

Long-Term Exposure

Unlike fumes and ingestion, you may not know that your chronic condition is linked to your time at work. You could get a cancer diagnosis years after you quit your job.

Employers have to take special precautions to make sure their workers aren’t exposed to these dangerous chemical hazards.

How to Avoid Chemicals in the Workplace?

chemical hazards

So, now that you know more about these chemicals, how do you avoid them? The trick is to identify them, access them, control them, and sustain them.

Identify the Substance

Sit down and take inventory of every substance you use in your workplace. Once you’ve named them, take the time to understand what they are and what their effects are.

Access

Pay attention to how these chemicals are stored and used and run scenarios in your head. Think about everything that can go wrong if a person faces exposure and the consequences of it.

Control

Now that you know the dangers, you can work on how to control them. It could as simple as slapping a chemical hazards sign on the front of a container.

Whatever system you come up with, take the time to train each of your employees in how to keep everything under control.

Sustain

The last step is to sustain the substances. Take inventory of any new chemical hazards that come in, and come up with precautions for them while keeping your current systems in place.

Everything You Need to Know About Chemical Hazards

Every day, many workers are exposed to chemical hazards. If employers don’t take the time to come up with preventive measures, this exposure can lead to disease and even death.

Do what you can to take the necessary precautions and keep everyone around you safe. If you’re looking for more ways to stay healthy at work, check out the Lifestyle section of our blog.

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