How do you identify hazards in the workplace? What risk assessments can you use for hazards? How can hazards be controlled? In this blog we’re going to answer all of these questions and more, by discussing hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
1. Identify Hazards
When it comes to hazardous chemicals, obviously you need to identify those hazards in the first place. One of our main things that you need to do is consult with your workers before you actually go too far into this. They know what’s going on, they know the chemicals they use and they’ll be able to give you some really good information.
You should also be looking at the label, that will clearly provide information about what some of the hazards might be, but also the main source of information that you’ll have for hazardous chemicals is that Safety Data Sheet.
The safety data sheet is the information manual or instruction manual on that particular chemical, and has all the information that you might need to know what the different hazards might be.
When you look at the safety data sheet, you need to look at a few key points. The first thing you need do is to identify whether the chemical itself is actually hazardous or not and this will be nice and clearly shown in the actual safety data sheet itself.
If it is not hazardous, we don’t need to worry.
If it is hazardous then everything else, we say from here on in, is going to be really important.
2. Risk Assessment
The next thing you need to do if you identify a chemical as being hazardous, is do a risk assessment on that chemical.
There are 3 different types of risk assessments you can do:
Basic Risk Assessment:
A basic risk assessment is just going to be contained on the actual register of chemicals that you have.
As you can see from the video, there is an example of a really basic risk assessment where we’ve just basically listed the chemical out and given a bit of a score or rating to do with the risk level of that chemical.
Generic Risk Assessment:
Here you can bundle chemicals of different types into one category and risk assess them all together.
This is a really handy way of getting a lot of risk assessments done on a bunch of different chemicals, such as paints, which all have the same types of risk levels.
Detailed Risk Assessment:
A detailed risk assessment is done for any chemical if there is more information required, if it’s really quite a hazardous chemical or if you don’t have adequate information to put straight into the register.
An example of a detailed risk assessment form that you might do for some of those more tricky chemicals is demonstrated in the video.
3. Risk Control
When controlling risk, you will need to use the Hierarchy of Control.
The hierarchy of control will tell you that you should try and eliminate the chemical or the hazard from that chemical as your first option. Most of the time you can’t eliminate the use of the chemical, occasionally yes, but mostly no, so we’re going to have to go to step two which is substitute.
You need to look for better options as far as the chemical is concerned. You might be using a cleaning chemical that is quite hazardous, so you need to look for another cleaning chemical which does the same job but is less hazardous, that’s substitution.
Engineering is your third option and here you can look at some sort of physical change to the actual workplace. That might be something like a delivery system, where the chemical is contained and it’s delivered in an enclosed system. An example of this is provided in the video.
Some of your administrative controls are going to be doing things like task rotation, where you make sure that the same worker is not always using the hazardous chemical all the time and you share that exposure out between multiple workers. It may also help to provide training in the use of the chemical, so, the right volumes, the right concentrations, those sorts of things are important.
And finally, you’ve got personal protective equipment. This is going to be things make that reduce the exposure through to the chemical, such as:
- respiratory protective equipment
Specific Workplace Requirements
For chemicals, there is some specific workplace requirements that are part of the Health and Safety regulations. One of those requirements state that you must have a register for all the hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
The register must include:
- The list of hazardous chemicals
- Where they’re located
You can do a little bit of a risk assessment and detail the control measures you’ve got for those chemicals as well.
You need to make sure that you have Safety Data Sheets for every chemical, which must be less than 5 years old according to the health and safety regulations.
You also need to make sure that every hazardous chemical in the workplace is labelled. So, there’s going to be an appropriate label on the container to ensure you’re not getting different chemicals confused.
You need to make sure you train your workers where appropriate and that they use personal protective equipment where appropriate.
There is also another couple of particular requirements when your hazardous chemicals exceed certain volumes which include placarding, so this is a specific signage requirement and manifest requirements as well, so you need a certain type of manifest for high volume hazardous chemicals
- Register all hazardous chemicals
- Use a Safety Data Sheet for all chemicals
- The control measures may include PPE and training