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For many people, this is an unfamiliar subject, but in certain sectors, chemical liquids are used intensively. Especially in the chemical sector, where liquids are necessary in the process to make products of to clean certain materials.

Here, we provide an introduction to the risk. For specific questions, it is best to contact us. On this page, we focus above all on the work with chemical substances. If you want information about safe working with chemical substances and fumes? We refer you to this page.
 

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Categorize <
To categorize hazardous substances, they are classified according to their properties:
  • Oxidizing: catch fire or explode easily
  • Poisonous: dangerous to organs, internal damage after penetrating the body.
  • Corrosive: affects organs directly, external damage, immediate damage after contact.
  • Hazardous: irritating substances, for instance causing effects like rashes or eczema. 
     
Some substances are extremely dangerous and fall into the CRM categories:
  • C = Carcinogenic: can cause cancer in the long term
  • M = Mutagenic: can create malignant cells in the long term
  • R = Reprotoxic: hazardous to procreation, or unborn children.
Consequences <
The risk of the substances can be assessed on the effects it has:

Acute effecten

Treden onmiddellijk op bij blootstelling aan deze stof. Na beëindiging van contact/blootstelling, verdwijnen de gevolgen doorgaans. Denk hierbij aan de volgende situaties:
  • Burns;
  • Shortness of breath/breathlessness;
  • Reactions with other substances.
Long-term effects
Effects that only become manifest after being exposed. Usually, these effects are chronic in nature and emerge after prolonged and repeated exposure. The effects are irreversible. Think of the following effects:
  • Damage to the central nervous system.
  • Occurrence of lung diseases / lung damage.
  • Carcinogenic: causing uncontrolled cell divisions (tumor formation)
  • Mutating: causing damage to body cells.
  • Reprotoxic: affects fertility, or can cause damage to the unborn child.

Which legislation is relevant here?

In article 5 of the Health and Safety Law, it states that the employer has to properly inventory and record the risks, while article 4 of the same law provides the framework for the measures that have to be taken. The legislation indicates the correct order:
  1. Make an inventory and determine exposure (limit).
  2. Prevent exposure.
  3. Limit exposure (if prevention is not possible).
When working with CMR substances, these require additional attention. These substances are extremely hazardous and have therefore been included in a specific list. For the substances on that list, a mandatory replacement applies. In addition, you have to offer your employees a medical exam, the frequency and contents of which depend on the risks. It is recommended to have new employees take such an exam as well, to serve as a baseline. 

Risk approach:

rHow do you handle the source?

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A. How can you eliminate the source?

Sometimes, it is possible to alter the process and stop using the hazardous component. For instance, in cleaning processes, a chemical process (chlorine) can be replaced with a mechanical one (brushing). In addition, it is sometimes possible to replace the substance by a less hazardous one, which is known as substitution. For instance, when painting, replacing turpentine-based paint by a solvent-free alternative.

B. Taking measures directly at the source

Often, it is not very efficient to remove the source, in which case you are obliged to prevent exposure, for instance by separating your employees from the substance, in the form of closed systems, for example, or operator cabins, acid cabinets, etc. This allows you to prevent your employees from coming into contact with the substances through spraying or leakage.
 

Organisatorische maatregelen bij chemische risico's

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A. Technical measures in the environment?

If measures involving the source are not possible, you can adjust the environment, also known as technical measures. By creating zones and fencing of work areas, you increase the distance to the risk source. Ventilation prevents fumes from reaching your employees, or from accumulating in the room. 

B. What are organizational measures?

Technical measures are always to be preferred, because human behavior is a weak link in safety management. In some cases, however, you will have to take organizational measures, for instance:
  • Procedures: Agreeing how the processes are carried out.
  • Instructions: are a detailed implementation of those procedures. Aimed at the individual employee or workplace where the activity will take place.
  • Education: make sure that employees are professional in their work and are trained accordingly.
  • Training: through (location-specific) training, employees become aware how machines and processes work and how to deal with them safely.
  • Supervision: The measures listed about are no guarantee for safe behavior. That requires supervision, as well as providing the opportunity to determine the effectiveness of the policy.

Personal Protective Equipment

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Sometimes, the risk of (too much) exposure remains. PPG can offer protection in predictable and unpredictable situations. In the case of liquids, the focus is above all on exposure via airways, eyes and skin:
  • Protective clothing: liquid-proof clothing or chemical suits that prevent the body from coming into contact with the liquids. Can be combined with respiratory protection.
  • Respiratory protection: to filter, reduce or completely avoid fumes (depending on the type of respiratory protection). 
  • Facial protection: to protect skin and eyes against contact with the liquid through spraying or radiations.
  • Hand protection: usually, the hands come into contact with the work. In the choice of liquid-proof or chemical gloves, it is important to see to which substances they are resistant. 
  • Foot protection: In some workplaces, foot protection is necessary. We provide special chemical boots to that end which are resistant to certain chemical substances. 


Create awareness & support


How do you create awareness concerning the risk?
Instruction and training are a first step on the way to creating awareness. Statistics from practice underline the importance of working safely. Don’t assume that employees know intuitively what they have to do. Assessing risks not just the task of production managers or safety experts. Employees have to learn to assess
risks themselves and take action.

So teach employees to read and understand packaging labels or MSDS/VIB. Workplace Instruction Cards are a s simpler version of what is described in the MSDS/VIB. So create awareness and motivation for safe working with and for each other. In other words: create a safety culture.

How can we encourage the use of personal protective gear?
We notice that support is the basis for a personal approach to working safely, but we also encounter resistant in every organization. Usually, that has to do with the company culture and how comfortable the gear is for the user. In industry, we often come across the ‘rugged exterior’ culture, in which safety is not a popular subject. Experience teaches is that role models play an important part in increasing internal support. That also applies to management: if they give a good example, the rest will be more likely to follow. In other words, be aware of who you can use to create support and who you can include in the selection process, turning them into ambassadors of the ultimate selection.

The second aspect has to do with comfortability: if the selection of work clothing and PPG is based online on how effective the protection is, it will not be very comfortable to wear. This will affect internal support for their use. 

That is why is important, during the selection process, to take the wearers and the circumstances in which they will have to use the protective clothing into account, as well as the user’s wishes. But even if there is no motivation at all, safety has to be maintained. Rules and warning can ensure that people value safety. 

Of course, the protection level is more important that the employees’ wishes, but by trying to bring them together, one does not have to rule out the other. You can gain first of all by not being overprotective! It is not necessary to always aim for the highest level of protection.

Our PPG advisor can determine the most comfortable clothing and PPG for each function level.
 

Advice

Welke rol kan een PBM-adviseur hierin spelen?
We see that high-risk companies are increasing aware of the risks. Our PPG advisors have operated in various work environments. They are happy to share their experiences with you:




Hand protection
How to choose hand protection?

Everything about standards, coating, dexterity and advice

Protective clothing
Protects your whole body

All information about standards, maintenance, corporate identity, etc.

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