Health & Safety Glossary

Hydrofluoric Acid

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What is Hydrofluoric Acid?

Hydrofluoric acid, also known as hydrogen fluoride, is a colorless gas which contains fluorine. When dissolved in water, it results in hydrofluoric acid. It’s different from other types of acids because of the fluoride ion, which easily penetrates the skin and starts damaging body tissue.

Hydrofluoric acid can prove to be immensely harmful due to its corrosive and toxic properties, and if it touches a person’s skin, it can result in some serious burns or even result in death. 

Hydrofluoric acid needs to be neutralized immediately, otherwise it could cause significant damage, resulting in severe loss of skin tissue, and may even result in loss of limbs. In some cases, hydrofluoric acid can result in death too.

 

Why is it Important to Maintain Proper Safety While Using Hydrofluoric Acid?

Hydrofluoric acid is a commonly used chemical in a variety of industries. It is used in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells, for carrying out industrial maintenance, and is widely used in the food industry. 

Even though its handling carries quite a few inherent risks, there are no safer alternatives available, which is one of the main reasons why demand for it continues to grow. 

Hydrofluoric acid has several chemical and toxicological properties that increases the associated hazards. For starters, the solution is generally clear and colorless, and incredibly corrosive. 

Anhydrous hydrofluoric acid can release harmful fumes if it’s released into the air. Understanding its toxicity, the harm that it can cause, and how to quickly take action is very important. Failure to act in time can result in harmful injuries. 

Therefore, it’s important for all employees to understand the safety protocols and know how to react in case one of them comes into contact with this acid.

 

The Many Dangers of

Here are some of the many dangers that hydrofluoric acid poses.

Skin Contact

Hydrofluoric acid is generally different from other protic acids because the fluoride ion is capable of penetrating the skin quite easily, which is why it results in such fast damage. 

More importantly, if timely treatment is not provided, the acid may continue to cause damage to the skin for days. In some cases, when the concentration of the acid is greater than 50%, it may cause blisters immediately. 

Another major issue is that skin contact with hydrofluoric acid can cause fluoride poisoning, which often causes a series of other problems like hypomagnesemia, systemic hypocalcemia, and may result in a sudden death.

Eye Contact

In case hydrofluoric acid comes in contact with a person’s eyes, it could result in blindness. The acid burns through a person’s cornea, destroying it completely if the exposure isn’t treated.

Inhaling Harmful Fumes

Inhaling harmful fumes of hydrofluoric acid can result in a series of issues, ranging from bronchospasms to acute pulmonary edema. The symptoms generally start with a cough, and then get progressively worse, ranging from tightness in the chest, to fever and even blue skin. Immediate treatment is necessary.

 

How to Safely Work with Hydrofluoric Acid

There are a number of different things that companies can take to improve the safety of its employees who handle hydrofluoric acid.

Proper Preparation and Training

All employees who are authorized to work with hydrofluoric acid should receive appropriate training. It’s important that all employees understand the risks and have a list of standard operating procedures that they can refer to if they aren’t sure of the handling process.

Define Designated Areas

To mitigate the risk of spills and to reduce the risk to employee safety, it’s generally recommended that companies establish designated areas where hydrofluoric acid is stored or handled. 

It’s also important for the company to specify clear warnings in that area, indicating the danger and the fact that hydrofluoric acid might be present in the area. 

Furthermore, the company must ensure that a consistent supply of running water is present, and that it should be prominently marked. Employees should know about safety showers so that they can dilute the acid in case of a spill.

Supply Personal Protective Equipment

Employees must have ready access to personal protective clothing. When handling hydrofluoric acid, all employees must wear acid resistant aprons, long pants, and close-toed shoes. 

Face shields, goggles, and gloves should also be a requirement for all employees.

Instituting Safe Practices and Providing First Aid

It’s important for companies to institute safe practices when dealing with hydrofluoric acid. For starters, employees should not be allowed to work with the acid after hours.

All containers should be clearly labeled, and any flasks that contain the acid should have secure support, so they don’t tip over or lead to an accidental spill. 

It’s also necessary for the company to ensure that first aid stations are set up nearby the designated areas where employees work with hydrofluoric acid. Quick responses can significantly reduce the severity of an injury. 

 

Use EcoOnline’s Chemical Safety Software to Mitigate Exposure Risks

EcoOnline’s Chemical Safety Software is designed to help you establish best practices to ensure chemical compliance.

From providing employees easy access to information about the chemicals they work with to registering chemical exposures, the software makes it easy for companies to greatly improve safety when dealing with harmful chemicals.