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DOT Hazards: Keys to Protect Your Workers

Julie Copeland

Posted by
CEO


We avoid the large tankers rolling down our highways displaying warnings of Hazardous Materials. We see metal drums in warehouses and gated facilities with bold signs alerting us to harmful chemicals. We hear on the news about train derailments and chemical spills that impact the area and sometimes lead to large scale evacuations.

Hazardous chemicals are all around us. And more workers than you might think are exposed to these chemicals every day.


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More than 32 million workers (more than 20% of the entire U.S. workforce) are exposed to hazardous chemical products in the workplace. According to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), 650,000 different chemicals are present in more than 3 million American workplaces including the following industries:

  • Manufacturing

  • Construction

  • Auto Shops

  • Ship Yards

  • Beauty Salons

  • Dental Offices

  • Hospitals

  • Offices and Stores

According to former US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, "Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today."

  • Workplace chemical exposures have been linked to cancers, and other lung, kidney, skin, heart, stomach, brain, nerve, and reproductive diseases.

  • According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Skin Disease (OSD) are the second most common type of occupational disease.

  • Chemical agents are the main cause of occupational skin diseases and disorders. These agents are divided into two types: primary irritants and sensitizers. Primary or direct irritants act directly on the skin though chemical reactions. Sensitizers may not cause immediate skin reactions, but repeated exposure can result in allergic reactions.

The Department of Transportation (49 CFR 172.704) makes training mandatory for almost anyone who handles hazardous materials, regardless of the amount. This affects employees who select or fill hazardous materials packages, label containers, complete shipping papers, load or unload vehicles, transload hazardous materials, or operate vehicles used in the transport of hazardous materials. 

The federal government, through OSHA aims to ensure chemical safety in the workplace through a variety of workplace regulations.  For example:

  • Chemical manufacturers and importers must evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they use and prepare safety data sheets (SDSs) for employees and downstream customers. 

  • Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must have labels and safety data sheets for all exposed workers, and also train workers in proper methods of handling chemicals.  OSHA calls these requirements its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). 

The purpose of these rules is to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries caused by chemicals. OSHA states that workers have a right to know what chemicals they are exposed to. The HCS has more rules for employers that produce or import chemicals, although other employers must still keep employees aware of possible chemical exposure and develop a workplace program for notifying workers.  The HCS cover chemicals in all physical forms --liquids, gases, vapors, fumes, and mists, regardless of whether they are in a container. Training must be done at the time of initial assignment and whenever a new chemical hazard is introduced into the work area and information must always be available through labels and safety data sheets.

What Should Training Cover?

The OSHA standard 1910.1200 requires that information and training includes the following:  

  • Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area;

  • The physical, health, simple asphyxiation, combustible dust, and pyrophoric gas hazards, as well as hazards not otherwise classified, of the chemicals in the work area;

  • The measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards, including specific procedures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as appropriate work practices, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment to be used; and,

  • The details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer, including an explanation of the labels received on shipped containers and the workplace labeling system used by their employer; the safety data sheet, including the order of information and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information.

Arbill offers training that includes discussion and hands on activities for the identification of hazardous materials, how to use the Hazardous Materials Table in 49 CFR 172.101, the hazard classes, standards for packaging, marking and labeling, shipping papers, placards, safety and security requirements. Special emphasis is made on the proper completion of shipping papers.

In addition to training, Arbill offers a number of different PPE options to protect your employees from chemical exposure. For more information on making your workplace safer, contact an Arbill Safety Expert at 800.523.5367 or click here to schedule a complementary call.

Have a Safe Day!

Topics: Chemical Hazards

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