Chemicals are present in our everyday lives. We are exposed to chemicals from cleaning products in our homes to industrial chemicals in our workplaces.
Chemicals can contain hazardous constituents with the possibility of causing harm to people and the environment and can cause damage if not used, managed, or stored correctly. Workers must be trained in the chemicals that have the potential to affect them to prevent injury, illness, death, property damage, or environmental contamination. Therefore, training chemical safety in the workplace is crucial to ensuring a safe and healthy work environment.
What is the Importance of Chemical Safety Training?
Employees have a right to know what chemicals they are working with, including the qualities of those chemicals. This information includes the hazards and how to store, use, and manage chemicals. In addition, employees should be aware of how to respond if chemicals are spilled or if a worker is exposed to a chemical through inhalation, injection, ingestion, or absorption through the skin or eyes. Workers must know the substances that can affect them to ensure they are safely working with a chemical and are prepared to respond to a spill or chemical exposure.
To ensure that your employees have sufficient knowledge of the chemicals they are working with or around, your company should confirm that they are trained. Without training, employees are more likely to be hurt by chemicals due to improper use or storage. In addition, incorrect handling can cause unwanted reactions, spills, and property damage. Therefore, ensuring your workforce is trained in chemical safety training topics is vital to the health and safety of workers and your workplace.
What are the Benefits of Chemical Safety Training?
There are many benefits to providing chemical safety training in the workplace. First, training will minimize the potential of a severe incident involving hazardous chemicals. If employees are trained in how to use chemicals, it reduces the chances of employees getting hurt. For example, employees are more likely to be protected from contact if they are appropriately trained in the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to be worn, and the engineering controls implemented to protect them from exposure.
Training will also reduce the chance of spills causing environmental contamination outside the workplace. If employees are trained in the spill kit locations and how to respond to a spill of specific chemicals, they will take action more quickly and efficiently. A rapid response will reduce the chances of spills leaking outside onto the property.
Last, training can minimize the chances of fires or explosions. Some chemicals can react with each other, which can cause unwanted consequences leading to fires and explosions. Fires and explosions can cause injuries, illnesses, death, and property damage that can cause a facility to shut down. If employees are trained in adequately storing chemicals, there will be a less likely chance of chemical reactions which can cause fires or explosions.
What Topics should be included in Chemical Safety Training?
- Chemical safety training topics should include the following:
- The location and details of the chemical safety program and operating procedures
- The chemicals the employee will use or be exposed to
- Chemical hazards such as flammable, corrosive, or carcinogenic
- The controls implemented to minimize chemicals hazards, such as fume hoods and PPE
- How to wear the PPE that is required when handing chemicals
- How to read and understand Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and chemical labels
- How to locate Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) in the chemical safety management system
- Routes of chemical exposure
- Signs and symptoms of exposure to chemicals
- How to store and segregate chemicals
- How to react in the event of a spill or exposure to chemicals
- Emergency procedures
How Often Should I Train Employees in Chemical Safety Training Topics?
Employees should be trained in chemical safety when introduced to a chemical at the time of initial assignment and whenever a new chemical hazard is presented that the worker has not been previously trained on. In addition, workers should be trained in chemical safety at least on an annual basis. Training workers more frequently than once a year is a best practice and should be implemented to keep chemical safety at the top of mind for employees.
Frequent training will help workers focus on the dangers of chemicals to prevent harm to themselves, co-workers, the facility, neighboring companies, or the environment. Depending on their job title, some workers may have to take more comprehensive and specialized chemical safety training courses if they have additional responsibilities regarding chemical safety at the worksite. After training workers in chemical safety, documentation should be maintained.
What training is better – Classroom, Hands-On, or On-The-Job?
Most employers focus on classroom training to ensure that workers understand the chemicals and the hazards that the chemicals pose. However, we recommend a combination of all three types of training. A best practice for chemical safety training will include classroom training, hands-on, and on-the-job training.
Many employers gather workers and present chemical safety training in a classroom, usually utilizing a Powerpoint presentation. Classroom training presents an excellent opportunity for workers to ask questions about the chemicals they may be exposed to. During classroom training, you can also implement hands-on activities. Another way to deliver chemical safety training, similar to classroom training, is through an online training platform. Online safety training allows workers to understand the information at their own pace.
Hands-On Chemical Training Activities
Hands-on training allows workers to apply their newly learned knowledge to real-world experiences. Some examples of hands-on training could be handling chemicals with the proper PPE.
For example, employees can practice what glove type to choose based on the chemical and then practice taking the gloves off properly to prevent skin exposure. Practice will give the employee the knowledge of how to correctly select the right glove for the chemical and how to properly take gloves off if the gloves have chemicals on them. This will prevent workers from exposing themselves to chemicals on their skin.
Another hands-on chemical safety activity could be to practice using the emergency eye wash and shower stations if an employee is exposed to chemicals in their eye or skin. In addition, practicing spill drills is a great way to train employees to respond to chemical spills to prevent environmental contamination.
On-The-Job Chemical Training Activities
On-the-job training is an excellent way for employees to learn how to use and manage chemicals properly. On-the-job training is when workers perform the tasks they will be expected to do during their job.
First, supervisors should walk employees through the location where they will be working. Then, supervisors should discuss the substances they will be working with, including what PPE is required, where to find the PPE, and other controls implemented to prevent exposure.
Next, supervisors should show employees the closest area with Safety Data Sheets, Standard Operating Procedures, the chemical safety procedure or specification, where the spills kits are located, the proper location to store and dispose of chemicals, and where the eyewash and shower stations are located.
Supervisors or the lead employees should first show employees how to do specific tasks with the chemicals and then watch the employee perform the same job to ensure they are performing it correctly. Then, after a certain amount of time, usually at 30 and 90 days, supervisors or lead employees should follow up to ensure that the worker is still performing the tasks with chemicals safely and correctly.
Why do you Need to Complete Chemical Safety Training?
It’s vital not to underestimate the importance of chemical safety training in the workplace. Chemical safety training should be a key component of your health and safety program to prevent injuries, illnesses, death, environmental contamination, and property damage. Training will minimize harm to workers, reduce the chance of spills leading to environmental contamination, and prevent fires and explosions resulting in property damage.