Are These Health Hazards Lurking in Your Facility?

Hazardous Materials May Be Putting You at Risk

Recently, I had a company reach out to me. They needed help and guidance regarding the hazardous materials and chemicals they had onsite. OSHA had recently stopped by and conducted a random site inspection. While the company was aware of OSHA’s strict regulations on proper handling, labeling, record keeping, training and storage of hazardous materials, they were NOT meeting the standards. They were cited for multiple violations, and given a hefty fine to pay. The company was determined to fix the issues cited at their facility to comply with OSHA and ensure the utmost safety of their employees.

Step 1: What Hazards Are Present?

I was called in to assess the citations given and guide the customer through solutions that would guarantee compliance. The first step in tackling this project was to identify all hazardous materials on site at the facility. This might seem simple enough, but things get a little trickier when we actually define what a hazardous material is.

A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical, radiological, and/or physical), which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors.

With that definition in mind, we carefully began to take inventory of the materials present at the manufacturing facility. These are just some of the materials we found:

  • Gasoline for snow blower
  • Propane for BBQ grill
  • Ammonia, chlorine bleach, toilet bowl cleaner & Drano in the bathrooms
  • WD-40, machine oil, coolant, acid flux, acetylene & compressed oxygen in the maintenance shop
  • Isopropyl alcohol in the first aid cabinet
  • Spray paint, turpentine, paint thinner & lacquer thinner in the finishing area

Step 2: The Importance of SDS Sheets

After identifying the materials on site, step 2 required us to go online and download the corresponding SDS (Safety Data Sheets) for each of the materials found. The newly designed SDS sheets provide an organized and detailed collection of information that covers health risks, environmental hazards, protective measures, flammability information and more.

Previously, these sheets were referred to as Material Safety Data Sheets. We recommended the facility manager order a Brady Safety Data Sheet binder where he could keep these files organized and easy to reference at a moment’s notice.

Step 3: Train on Hazardous Materials Handling & Exposure

Proper employee training encompasses step 3. It is crucial that every employee is trained to recognize the signs and symptoms to look for, should someone be exposed to any hazardous materials onsite. Some health issues are cumulative based on long term exposure, and some are instant. If a person were to become ill from exposure, the Poison Control Center and first responders will want to know how the person was acting, and what they were experiencing to provide the proper immediate treatment.

Training covers what hazardous materials are present at a facility and the risks, and goes into depth on proper container labeling and how to label secondary containers. The new Globally Harmonized System (GHS), was enacted worldwide by chemical manufacturers and the major chemical producing nations. It provides standardized visual and text data labeling requirements for each type of chemical hazard whether liquid, gas or solid. With these standards in effect, facilities must be certain every container is properly labeled. Standards cover not only proper labeling, but safe storage as well. Flammables cabinets, DOT approved gas cans and the proper storage of compressed gas cylinders are all critical to a safe workplace.

In 2014 alone, 55 U.S. Poison Control Centers provided telephone guidance for nearly 2.2 million accidental human poison exposures. Many poisonous chemicals look and smell appealing to children and pets. Windex looks similar in appearance to blue Gatorade. Radiator coolant smells sweet and looks like lemonade. These hazards are all around us at work and at home. Accidental exposure and ingestion occurs frequently, even in adults.

Maintain Compliance

After proceeding through the 3 steps above, we were able to get the facility into full hazardous materials compliance. The facility manager was able to greatly reduce the fine originally incurred, and he expressed great relief and appreciation in knowing his employees are working in a much safer environment. During training, the employees asked great questions and shared their encounters with dangerous materials in the past.

Please take a moment to look under your sink, in your basement and in your garage. You are likely to have products that contain hazardous chemicals that can cause injury and even death. Remember, safety is NOT just for the workplace alone!

If you have any questions or concerns about hazardous materials or chemicals you may have onsite, or maintaining compliance with OSHA, please reach out. We can get your facility up to regulation and ensure your employees are working in the safest space they can. Let us help with training, labeling, signage, storage equipment and many other aspects of safety.

#NationalSafetyMonth #KeepEachOtherSafe

What hazardous materials can you identify at your facility? Are you and your employees trained on the proper labeling, storing and handling of these chemicals?