Handling hazardous substances is a regular aspect of many business operations. Some organizations will use dangerous industrial chemicals, acids, pesticides or biological agents on a daily basis, while even office-based businesses may need to handle cleaning agents or other chemicals from time to time.
As such, every employer has a responsibility to ensure their staff members are properly trained in how to use and store these hazardous substances in a way that is safe. Using the correct packaging and labeling is a crucial element of this, and can make a significant difference in keeping employees and visitors safe on site.
Here, we will examine why it is so important to use the right solutions for packaging, labeling and storage of hazardous substances, as well as detailing the essential information that good safety labeling needs to communicate.
Most hazardous substances can be stored most safely in the packaging they were sold in, as these materials are designed specially to contain the chemical. If a substance needs to be transferred to another storage medium, it is essential to make sure this packaging meets the correct requirements:
It should be secure and easy to close up, preventing the substance from leaking.
It must be sturdy and robust, withstanding regular handling, frequent reuse and reopening without degrading.
It must not be adversely affected by the substance itself.
It must be clearly labeled to identify the substance and its potential hazards.
All hazardous substances and chemicals need to be stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines. To reduce the likelihood of damage to the stores, potentially dangerous chemicals and liquids should be kept above ground.
It is equally vital to inform employees about the potential risks and the necessary safety protocols involved in storing chemicals. As such, storage areas for hazardous substances should be marked out with appropriate safety signs, notices and hazard symbols.
By investing in appropriate packaging, hazardous substances can be safely contained for as long as they are needed, keeping potential health risks to a bare minimum.
Labels for hazardous substances should contain all of the information users will need to utilize the chemicals safely and appropriately, in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines.
This includes providing warnings or precautionary statements to tell the user what they need to do to prevent or minimize adverse effects, or to inform them of the potential risks. These details may include the following instructions:
What chemicals need to be kept from mixing to avoid a dangerous reaction.
Whether the skin needs to be washed after handling.
Whether personal protective equipment is needed when in contact with the chemical, including safety gloves, goggles or respiratory protection.
Information on storing the chemical at the right temperature, or whether it needs to be protected from sunlight or contact with air.
It is a legal requirement to provide these precautionary statements, alongside clear instructions on how the product can be safely and correctly used, stored and disposed of, including what to do in the event of a spill. Most chemical products will include this information on their labeling, so this must not be obscured or removed.
Labels for hazardous chemicals will contain pictograms to highlight the hazards at a glance, including:
Workplaces can further improve compliance with chemical handling guidelines by putting up safety signs and notices in the storage area to ensure this information is conveyed as clearly as possible. Additionally, workers should receive training on the risks associated with these chemicals, and how to use them responsibly.
Workplace health and safety legislation and labor protection laws dictate that chemical hazards and toxic substances used in the workplace must have appropriate labels and safety data sheets for workers, also requiring guidance on the specific hazards in their work area and the measures they can use to protect themselves.
Failing to get this right will increase the risk of an accident occurring, or an employee’s health being damaged by exposure to dangerous chemicals - leaving your organization liable for legal or regulatory repercussions.
As such, it is essential for companies to pay close attention to providing the correct packaging and labeling when storing hazardous substances. This will ensure they are meeting the highest possible standard of workplace safety, and help your staff to understand that their employer is dedicated to looking after their wellbeing.