This safety topic is a review of what was covered during your orientation and from previous safety topics. We are redoing this topic because chemical safety on the job is very important. You can be exposed to many hazardous substances and you need to know how to recognize the hazards and protect yourself. Some of our exposures come from environmental exposure, not chemicals out of a bottle. Two examples are hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. Hydrogen sulfide is sewer gas and has a rotten egg smell. Carbon monoxide comes from vehicle or tool exhaust and has no smell or taste. Both chemicals can cause death quickly.
For chemicals that we import onto a jobsite, we need to ensure that we have the following items:
- A chemical inventory that includes all chemicals that might be on the job.
- An SDS binder – Safety Data Sheets
- Labels on all containers
The GHS standard has also changed the name from MSDS – Material Safety Data Sheets to SDS – Safety Data Sheet. These SDS’s have more information than you can find on the label and are onsite in case of questions or possible exposure. The chemical inventory and SDS sheets are found in a binder, usually in the office trailer or a container onsite.
Labels are required on every container. If you transfer a chemical to another container, then that new container must be labeled also. An example of this would be our sprayers that hold form release or curing compound. The new labels that you will be seeing have to include the following items:
- Product Identifier/Chemical Name
- Pictograms – pictures that show the hazards
- Signal word if required – Warning or Danger
- Hazard Statements – what the chemical can do to you
- Precautionary statements – how to protect yourself from the chemical
We have been using pictograms in the US for many years. One of the oldest ones is the skull and cross bones, which is a symbol for poison. Pictograms are very helpful, especially for people who speak English as a second language and those who don’t read well. You will see these on the new labels. Another benefit of using pictograms is that you can tell what the hazard is without getting too close. If you see a flammable symbol on a label, you will treat it like gasoline, no smoking or open flame, keep container tightly closed, etc.
These 9 pictograms include the following hazards:
- Oxidizers – add oxygen and cause items to burn really well
- Corrosives – cause severe burns and damage
- Cylinder under pressure – can become a torpedo if valve is knocked off
- Environmental toxins – can kill fish, birds, mammals
- Poison – kills on short term exposure
- Health hazard – exposure can cause cancer, mutation, long term effects
- Exclammation point – minor or short term injury – irritation, etc
We are posting the pictograms and sample label on the jobsite board. Review the pictograms and the label for hydrogen sulfide. Most people know that hydrogen sulfide is poisonous, but are unaware that it is highly flammable as well, as flammable as propane.
Take a look around and if you find any unlabeled containers or labels that can’t be easily read, report it to your supervisor for correction. Follow all manufacturers recommendations for use, storage and disposal. Do not mix chemicals unless instructed to do so. Simply mixing ammonia and bleach can cause a toxic cloud of chloramine and hydrazine gases to form. These gases can damage your lungs and other organs, even causing cancer. This mixture is corrosive and will cause burns to skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Check your chemicals at home and make sure they are out of the reach of children.