Is Chemical Safety Training Essential In Your Workplace?
If you work in manufacturing, construction, agriculture, mining or any other industry that involves the frequent use of chemicals, chemical storage and usage safety is of paramount importance. Due to the prolific use of chemicals in these more industrial environments, the risks are more pronounced, meaning it’s even more essential that steps to mitigate these risks are taken.
By far the best way to reduce risk is by educating your workforce so they are fully informed of the dangers presented by the substances being stored onsite. Plus, failure to correctly assess risks and provide the appropriate training could mean your workplace/business does not meet regulatory compliance.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Legislation
COSHH legislation requires employers to control any substances that are hazardous to a person’s health. This process must include identifying all hazards, determining how to prevent any damage to health by way of a risk assessment, applying methods of control to reduce any harm to health and ensuring they are strictly adhered to, as well as keeping all control methods in good working order.
Part of these controls must include the provision of information, training and instruction for all employees at risk, as well as continually assessing this knowledge and monitoring their health, where appropriate. Emergency planning should also be carried out, so you are prepared in the event of something going wrong.
All training should be recorded, both so you can prove it was done and so you can easily determine when further training or refresher sessions may be in order.
Chemical Safety Training Options
Employee training can be carried out by a number of institutions and individuals, including:
· Local Colleges
· Trade Associations
· Suppliers of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV)
· Suppliers of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
· Health & Safety Laboratory (HSL)
Important Steps To Take
Safety Data Sheets (SDS), which detail the risks involved with chemicals stored onsite and the correct chemical storage guidelines to mitigate these risks, should be made available to all employees. These should be updated and redistributed every time new substances are introduced or processes changed.
You are not expected to provide third-party training to all visitors to your premises, but you are liable for their safety while onsite and for any potential threats the visitors themselves pose to your workforce. Contractors, for example, should be informed about all risks present on site through site inductions. If visitors are bringing hazardous materials with them, you need to be aware of what they are bringing and how they intend to prevent them from harming your employees. RAMS(risk assessments and method statements) should be provided by any contractors before they commence work on your site.
Determining Chemical Safety Training Requirements
With so much potentially at stake, it is vitally important that you correctly identify all training requirements, when it comes to working with chemicals and other hazardous substances. Asking yourself the following questions can help you determine the chemical safety training requirements for your organisation:
1. Do employees understand all chemical storage labels, signage and Safety Data Sheets?
2. Would employees be able to transfer the correct information onto new labels or signage when chemicals are transferred or moved?
3. If a Safety Data Sheet is missing and cannot be sourced from the supplier, would employees know where to find one online?
4. Do employees know the correct items of Personal Protective Equipment to wear when working with the chemicals stored onsite?
5. Are employees aware of the emergency protocols in place in the event of an accident?
6. Do employees understand all chemical storage requirements, including which chemicals can be stored with each other and which should be kept separated?
7. Are employees empowered to keep accurate records and inventory of all chemicals being stored onsite?
8. Do employees know the correct procedures to follow if they or a colleague are personally exposed to a hazardous substance?
9. Would employees know the appropriate actions to take after a chemical has been spilled or accidentally released?
10. Do employees know how to limit the spread of any chemical spills? (e.g. are they fully trained in the correct usage of spill decks and trays in the chemical storage area, and drain seals and containment barriers to prevent further spread?)
11. Do employees know which chemicals require dedicated flammable chemical storage and which can be kept in standard chemical storage units?
12. Do employees know which chemicals release toxic or flammable fumes, and therefore require extra ventilation?
13. Are employees aware of the full environmental impact of the chemicals stored onsite?
14. Are employees aware of all the potential health risks posed by the hazardous substances they work with?
15. Can employees complete chemical disposal and storage logs correctly?
16. Do employees know how to file a chemical incident report?
17. Would employees know to report any perceived gaps in a colleague’s knowledge of chemical safetyto their manager?
A ‘no’ response to any of these questions represents an opportunity to improve the safety of your workplace. By providing the relevant training to ensure the above points are addressed, you can take important steps to minimising the risk of chemical incident in the workplace.
Always Schedule Regular Chemical Safety Training
It’s important to consider that the above list is not exhaustive and should only be used as a rough guide to assess employees’ current levels of chemical safety awareness and knowledge. For complete peace of mind, and to ensure new/ temporary employees are brought up to speed on chemical storage and safety procedures as quickly as possible, regular training and assessments should be scheduled. This will also ensure employees take chemical safety seriously and keep prevention measures at the forefront of their minds, which is the best line of defence against accidents that could impact the health of employees or be costly to clean up.