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Best practices for working with hazardous chemicals

15-Sep-2015 The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to implement a written program that meets the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to provide for workers training, warning labels, and access to Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). The Hazard Communication Standard ensures employee awareness of the hazardous chemicals they are exposed to in the workplace.

Guidelines for storage and transport

OSHA also has a materials handling regulation (29 CFR 1910.176) that covers general safety requirements for storage and transport of hazardous chemicals and waste. This regulation determines that:

  • All containers should be placed carefully in tiers that are stocked, blocked, and interlocked and limited in height so that they are stable and secure.
  • Containers for storage should be chemical resistant, free of leaks, and with adequate caps or stoppers. Aisles and passageways are to be clear and free of obstructions that could create further hazards.
  • Chemicals are to be labeled along with their attached MSDS which explains their hazards in detail, along with necessary emergency procedures in the event of spills. MSDS also retain vital information regarding transport and disposal of such chemicals.
  • In transfer of chemicals, proper handling precautions, provided by manufacturer, must be observed. All hazardous and toxic chemicals (acids, alkalines, some salts, and organics) must be identified.
  • The transfer of flammable or combustible chemicals from one container to another is to occur in an area separate from other operations. Heating flammable solvents may also cause fire. As such, work must be carried out in a well ventilated area and away from potential ignition sources. Drainage and fire extinguishers are also required in such areas.
  • If hazardous chemicals make contact with the skin, the area is to be flushed with plenty of fresh water and the incident reported to safety personnel.
  • MSDS specify the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary while handling a particular substance. It is preferred that at least two persons be present at all times while working with chemicals. Any spills are to be carefully cleaned and labeled as hazardous.
Chemicals and waste products must be properly neutralized before disposal. If the material to be disposed is extremely toxic or poisonous, the material should be kept in a closed container and sent to the appropriate agency for proper disposal. Information regarding the proper disposal of hazardous waste can be found on most local government websites. Some communities have special collection facilities as well as days and locations set aside for a large collection of hazardous waste. Many businesses also have their own collection sites or on-premise collection areas. Additionally, hazardous waste sites often have unique disposal requirements depending on the waste material.

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