Harmful chemicals linger in many of our workplaces. Many are handled and stored inappropriately which can eventually lead to various short and/or long-term illnesses. Dr. David Michael, the former Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, notes that “the most serious hazards are the silent killers, the ones we can’t see” — many of these being the dangerous chemicals at our jobs. The adverse health effects that can result from these chemical hazards and substances can be prevented by being aware and taking necessary precautions.
Hazardous substances in the workplace can come in any form from solids and liquids to gases and powders. No matter its physical state, they can all be dangerous. These chemicals can be inhaled, ingested, injected or absorbed into the body and once inside, can affect multiple organs and organ systems.
The range of effects can vary depending on:
The chemical formula
The amount of the chemical you are exposed to
The concentration level of the chemical
The exposure duration
The exposure occurrence
Your current health status
Many of these dangerous substances are likely to be carcinogens (cancer causing agents), skin irritants or even toxic poisons. Aside from the various health hazards that can result, many physical hazards such as flammability and corrosion may arise too. It is important to understand the substances you are dealing with and to follow safety and prevention rules such as the ones below.
The most common ways to avoid the negative effects of dangerous chemicals in the workplace are Elimination, Substitution, Engineering Controls, altering work practices and using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The diagram below shows the effectiveness of these methods when working under these conditions.
Employees should also:
Be properly trained before handling these substances
Review the Materials Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS)
Follow exact protocols and emergency plans
Know the legal concentration limit for all chemicals
Try to decrease exposure time
Wear the appropriate clothes and gear
When finished working with the chemicals, be sure to dispose of chemicals in a biohazard waste basket or store them in an isolated area at the appropriate temperature
Dealing with dangerous chemicals in the workplace can be scary. Being alert and following safe procedures will decrease the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals. If an emergency happens, immediately notify the employer and call the ambulance or go to the nearest occupational health clinic. Always make sure to stay updated with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.
At NOVA Medical Centers, we specialize solely in Occupational Health. Our clinics provide instant, personalized care for employees who have been exposed to any dangerous chemicals in their workplace. With over 45 facilities across Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Indiana, we strive to provide the best care for America’s workforce.