As the Health and Safety Executive has highlighted, more than 700 people have suffered injuries lasting seven days or longer as a result of ‘exposure to, or contact with, a harmful substance’ in each of the last two years in the UK.

Such injuries clearly cause physical and emotional issues for the person involved but also cause issues in terms of a businesses productivity and reputation too.

There are some important lessons to consider if you are not to add to the statistics in your workplace…

Planning

In business, preparation is key and this couldn’t be clearer than when handling hazardous chemicals. You need to answer the following questions:

*Which is the best chemical for my needs?

*Where can I purchase this from?

*What rules and regulations govern its use?

*Does the use of this chemical require further training?

By answering these early on in the process you’ll be able to book any courses you might need and ensure you are using the right substance in the right way from a reputable supplier.

Equipment

The chemical is only one part of the process – the equipment you use alongside it is absolutely crucial. Consider everything, from PPE for employees right through to the equipment you can deploy to ensure a safe working environment (click here to see an example of spray booths that handle industrial paint tasks). Without this you’ll be unable to handle the chemical as safely or efficiently as required. The right equipment really is key to using hazardous chemicals smartly.

Storage

The use of chemicals needs to be controlled but so does the storage. If they aren’t kept in the right conditions, then they could easily become a real danger. This article from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers a handy list of some of the factors to consider – in particular ventilation and temperature and the need for regular checks of storage areas.

Be smart

The way you act around hazardous chemicals has to be in a way that keeps safety at the forefront. Eating and drinking shouldn’t occur in areas where these are used, for example, to avoid any potential contamination issues. You and your employees need to treat such substances with an appropriate level of seriousness.

Emergency

No-one is foolproof and things do, with the greatest will in the world, go wrong from time to time. You need to accept this and have a clear plan in place should any accidents occur. Have a record of every hazardous material you use and be aware of the medical implications of a problem with it. Make sure every incident is recorded and that every employee knows of the procedure in case of emergency.

Through careful planning, the right equipment and storage, smart and sensible working practices and a clear idea of what to do in an emergency, you’ll have all the precautions in place that you need to stay safe.