Chemicals play a large part in our everyday lives today. Everything from cleaning products in our homes to industrial chemicals in our workplaces contain potentially hazardous ingredients with the possibility of causing harm to users. In most jurisdictions some form of chemical safety is mandatory for employees handling dangerous goods and must be appropriate to their duties.
In a work environment, it is important to ensure your employees have adequate knowledge of the potential risks associated with chemicals to ensure safe handling and use. This can be achieved with the introduction of a Chemical Safety training programme provided to all employees who may be exposed to the hazardous chemicals. In addition, companies can use documented procedures i.e. Standard Operating Procedures, training on Chemical Risk Assessments and poster campaigns to increase awareness of staff regarding chemical safety. There are a number of benefits to providing Chemical Safety training in the workplace including; reducing the risk of a serious incident involving hazardous chemicals, ensuring full compliance with the relevant regulations and developing a positive health and safety culture associated with the use of chemicals and ensuring your employees feel safe and confident in their roles.
“The only thing worse than training good employees and losing them, is not training your employees and keeping them.”
Any training programme will need to be planned out and suitable for the environment you and your employees are working. General chemical safety awareness training should be supported with function specific training on the actual chemicals used by employees. It is important to ensure that your staff have understood what it is you have presented during the training, this can come in the form of a short written assessment.
The training should include, at least, the below information:
- Introduction to chemical safety and chemicals used in the workplace.
- Relevant chemical legislation and duties of key participants.
- Global Harmonised System (GHS) classification and labelling system.
- The potential risks associated with each hazard class.
- Routes of exposure.
- Signs and symptoms of exposure to chemicals.
- The current controls in place to protect the health and safety of employees i.e. engineering controls.
- Segregation and storage of chemicals.
- Use of personal protective equipment and other safety equipment such as ventilations systems.
- Identifying key information from the safety data sheets. Safety data sheets are a useful tool to use during Chemical Safety training as they cover hazards, information on safe handling and emergency procedures.
- Procedures to be followed in the event of an accident or an incident. Including, accident and incident reporting procedures.
Sometimes specialized training may be required in addition to chemical safety training for example wearing respiratory protective equipment, decanting flammable liquids, working in EX rated zoned areas. Chemical safety training courses are best when:
- Customised for the chemicals used in a particular workplace or department.
- There is open discussion with attendees as part of the course.
- Examples of real life chemical incidents are presented.
- Demonstrations form part of the training i.e. wearing PPE or dealing with a mock spill.
- Humour is included as part of the training while not taking away from the serious topic being covered.
Records should be maintained for all chemical safety training undertaken by staff. Training records should be maintained beyond the duration of employment. A timeline for refresher training is normally not referenced in national or international regulations. Very often organisations will outline a timeline when chemical safety training should be refreshed i.e. every year or every two years. Refresher training should be undertaken by employees under specific circumstances including the following:
- Changes in the types of chemicals being used by employees.
- Changes in the processes associated with the use of the chemicals.
- Changes in the regulations i.e. Introduction to GHS regulations.
National and international regulations should always be reviewed to determine if there are specific guidelines to follow in your jurisdiction. This information provided by EcoOnline.com aims to provide you with the general knowledge you need to implement a Chemical Safety training plan in your company. The rewards for introducing a Chemical Safety training plan vastly outweigh any disadvantages.