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Burning Questions about Chemical Safety

Julie Copeland

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Imagine your employees are working with chemicals when something goes wrong. Maybe it’s aProtect your workers with the right PPE and safety training. slip or a splash, but in an instant, chemicals splatter the eyes or the skin. And in that instant, the employee can sustain severe damage if the employee and his/her coworkers don’t act quickly.

Did you know that some hazardous chemicals take only 6 to 8 seconds to penetrate the eye’s outer membrane, where they can do the most serious damage? If chemicals get on the skin, workers might have as long as 10 to 15 seconds before injuries can become severe. Regardless of the situation, employees with skin or eye exposures do not have time to waste on trying to find the eyewash or shower. The affected area needs immediate attention.

According  to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), skin exposure to chemicals in the workplace is a significant problem in the United States. Both the number of cases and the rate of skin disorders exceed recordable respiratory conditions. In 2010, 34,400 recordable skin diseases or disorders were reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at a rate of 3.4 illnesses per 10,000 full-time employees, compared to 19,300 respiratory conditions with a rate of 1.9 illnesses per 10,000 full-time employees (BLS, 2011).

Employees that work with chemicals need to know where the nearest eyewash and shower are. And in the event that chemicals do go in the eyes and the employee can’t see, he/she needs to be able to find the eyewash and shower in the dark. Knowing this could actually save their eyesight.

For skin exposure, workers have seconds to get to the shower or risk severe damage. So in this event, would your employees know where to go? And can they get there in seconds? Is access to eyewash or showers through a doorway or are they blocked by any materials? Are they located together or at different stations? And once the employee gets there, does he/she know how to use the eyewash properly to effectively clean the area? Do they understand not to rub, as rubbing could force contaminants in deeper and cause further damage?

Do your workers know how to use a safety shower? Do they know the importance of shedding clothes that have chemicals on them… and what could happen if they don’t? Do they understand that their coworkers may need to help them in the shower? Do they know how long to flush their skin? (Experts say to flush the skin for 15 minutes or until emergency medical assistance arrives).

Are your workers trained to assist others should a coworker need immediate assistance due to chemicals in the eyes or on the skin? Do they fully realize that time is of the essence, and their actions must be quick and decisive?

Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to protect against hazardous chemicals. PPE should be used if a person is handling chemicals, even though such equipment may not totally guarantee that hazardous chemicals will not pass through to the worker. One federal Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of 1,052 industrial eye injuries revealed that most workers were injured while performing their normal job activities at their worksites.

Sixty percent of these persons surveyed said that they were not wearing eye protection at the time of their injury. When asked why, the majority responded that eye protection was not normally used, or they felt it was not needed.

Arbill offers an extensive line of PPE to keep your employees safe. We also offer educational support to help your employees understand the importance of knowing what to do in an emergency when you have seconds to avoid severe or catastrophe injuries.

Arbill protects nearly 300,000 employees every day.  We can help you with the safety products and services you need to keep your employees safe. To learn more how you can protect your workers, contact us or visit our website.  

Have a safe day!

Topics: Chemical Safety/HazMat/Spill Prevention

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