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Handling chemicals in the workplace is common and different workplaces handle different chemicals. In an office or kitchen, you may handle cleaning substances, printer toner or ink but in a factory, you may handle flammable liquids, solvents or paints but whatever the substance you need to handle it correctly to avoid injury and reduce risks.

If you do not fully understand the hazards of products that you are handling this can lead to their casual use and often leads to employee injuries, costly clean-up, or property losses. When substances are used properly, most can be both safe and effective. 

It is important to know what you are handling, then you can take the appropriate action. There are many different categories of chemical and they include flammable chemicals and corrosive chemicals. 

There are some simple guidelines that if you follow when handling chemicals, you can reduce your risk and keep safe:

  • Identify what the chemicals is that you are using
  • Read the Safety Data Sheets from the companies that supply the chemicals you intend to use. Keep a log of these sheets on hand in case it is needed in an emergency or for training

Make sure all containers containing chemicals have the original label on and if this is not possible all chemicals are labelled with at least the following information: 

  • Name of the chemical
  • Concentration or strength of the chemical
  • Information about hazards associated with the chemical (For example, skin irritant) and emergency information (“If chemical gets in eyes…”)
  • The manufacturer’s name
  • The date of manufacture (chemicals can degrade over time). - 
  • Make sure you know the safe uses of the chemicals in your workplace so you do not use the chemical for the wrong reason
  • Follow the safe handling instructions and identify what personal protective equipment should be used while handling chemicals and use it
  • Be aware of instructions regarding the mixing of chemicals as chemicals can react causing an even more harmful substance or gas
  • Always make sure you wash thoroughly after handling chemicals. If you come into contact with a chemical, wash it off at once. Some workplaces have a chemical shower that you can use to get cleaned up quickly
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke when you’re handling chemicals. You could accidentally swallow some chemicals or accidentally ignite flammable chemicals if you’re smoking
  • Dispose of chemicals after use correctly to avoid them coming into contact with others
  • When carrying chemicals, look where you are going, do not get distracted and take care at all times
  • Some chemicals have to be moved or handled with machines or within special vapour cupboards
  • And finally put chemicals back in the correct safe store and do not leave them out where they are not supposed to be. 

The personal protective equipment regulations 1992 lays down laws that must be followed by the employer and the employee. It is a legal duty to provide PPE by employers and for the employee to use it. If you have any doubts, please contact your manager.