The identification of hazards, evaluation of their risks and putting in place of control measures to secure the health and safety of employees is a major element for managing health and safety under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. The Chemical Agent Regulations 2001 point out the specific requirements necessary to complete a Chemical Agents risk assessment of the chemical agents used in the work place.
The first step in risk assessment is to identify the chemical hazards. When recording all potential chemical hazards, look beyond the obvious. As well as considering the use of chemical agents, look at chemicals or substances that may be produced by a process, for example welding fumes etc. Evaluate the correct storage and the quantities of chemicals being stored as well as waste disposal. Consider all materials, preparations/mixtures. Besides chemical agents, consider also, for example, items like glues, materials used by maintenance such as oils, gardening materials, water treatment and cleaning materials.
Check to see whether any of your chemicals are subjected to any Restrictions or Authorisations under the REACH Regulation. Your chemical supplier can supply you with this information and must supply you with a safety data sheet, (SDS) which should be provided with each material. The SDS is a primary source of health and safety information. For example the SDS may have your use included in the attached exposure scenarios (ES). It will include occupational exposure limits where they exist or it may have derived no effect levels (DNELs).
The second step is to consider who (groups of employees) might be affected and how the material/chemical might harm them. Recognise that some employees may need special consideration, for example, language needs of non-national workers, potential exposure of pregnant employees etc. While the employer is responsible for carrying out the risk assessment, employees should be involved.
The third step is evaluating the risks and deciding on precautions. Write down what precautions you are already taking and apply the principles below in the following order to determine what additional precautions are required: Eliminate the substance or substitute a less hazardous chemical Prevent exposure, for example, by containment and use of local exhaust ventilation (Engineering controls) Organise work to reduce the number of employees that might be exposed. Challenge how processes are carried out. Are there smarter ways of carrying out an activity so that the potential for exposure is eliminated or reduced. As a back-up or final resort, issue personal protective equipment Provide welfare facilities (first-aid and washing facilities to remove contamination)
The fourth step is to document and implement your findings. Write down your findings and discuss them with your employees. Consultation with your employees is necessary at every step and especially when implementing the findings of your chemicals risk assessment. Use this template to draw up an action plan, detailing who is responsible, for what action and when will it be carried out.
As no workplace remains the same, the fifth step is to review your risk assessment at least once per year, and update if necessary. When changes such as new employees, machinery, equipment or materials occur in the workplace it is necessary to review the risk assessment. Change in work patterns such as overtime or shift work, the needs of pregnant/nursing employees and those with special needs must also be included. When you are finished, check with your chemical supplier to ensure that your use of the chemical is recorded in the Exposure Scenarios part of the Safety Data Sheet which is now required under the REACH Regulation.
– See more at The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland:
Following numerous incidents in both Ireland and the UK a solvent company have been prosecuted following an unsafe decanting operation that led to a large fire which completely engulfed its premises.
Workers were transferring highly flammable materials from a bulk container into a smaller vessel. They were filling the drum using a pipe from the container but the pipe was too short. This meant dropping the material from the pipe into the drum which is known as “Splash Filling”. This process is known to generate static electricity which is a potential ignition source.
The flash point of the material being dispensed is just 4°C so when the incident occurred on a hot summers day there would have been a flammable vapour over its surface.
The build up of static electricity within the drum is thought to have ignited the vapour and sparked a fire which spread to a number of other drums containing flammable & solvent material in the area. Some of these drums exploded.
There were a number of employees in the area at the time of the incident but all managed to escape following an Emergency Drill call from a supervisor present. The emergency services were called and on there arrival the blaze was described as an “Inferno”.
An investigation into the incident found that the splash fill method used was inappropriate and posed a clear risk that wasn’t properly assessed. Employee safety was also compromised by the fact the pipe used was not earthed and the incorrect PPE was being worn.
Following the hearing the inspector said “Companies working with dangerous substances must take extreme care at all times and in all aspects of their operations. That clearly didn’t happen on this occasion and it could have had far-reaching consequences.”
Chemstore offer a Free Site Survey to assess the onsite dangers in both dispensing and storage of flammable materials. We will report our findings and recommend the correct process and storage which includes Emergency Spill Response, Eearthing and Storage of Flammable & Solvent materials.
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