10 administrative controls to improve chemical safety in the workplace

Dec 22, 2020 Posted by Walter Ingles

An administrative control is a company policy, operating procedure, job task, or training program purposefully designed as a safety measure. In this blog we are listing 10 administrative controls you could plan to implement right away at your workplace. We want to help you reach 100% chemical safety compliance.

Control # 1 Implement a chemical induction program

We consider a chemical induction program a HAZCHEM safety essential. Your induction program sets the site rules and establishes restricted areas and prohibited activities. Consider including:

  • Hazardous properties of the chemicals and the risk to personal health and safety

  • NO SMOKING zones, plus staff recreational areas for eating etc

  • Banned substances and electronics

  • Restricted areas

  • Essential PPE and safety equipment

  • Safe chemical handling procedures for decanting, re-fuelling, loading and unloading, manual handling

  • Fire and chemical emergency evacuation drills

  • Location of HAZCHEM stores and the procedures for keeping chemicals correctly segregated and separated from incompatible substances

  • HAZCHEM placards and safety signage

Control # 2 Restrict access to chemicals

Many Australian Safety Standards already require chemical stores to be isolated and protected from unauthorised access (eg, compressed gases). Restricting the amount of people who can access the chemicals minimises chemical exposure and prevents the chemicals being stolen or mishandled. Some restrictions you can introduce include:

  • Logbook and ID system for site visitors

  • Physical barriers to chemical storage and handling areas (gates with keypad locks, doors with fingerscanners)

  • Adequate supervision of workers, contractors and visitors

  • Procedures to ensure workers and visiting personnel don’t bring ignition sources into chemical stores

Control # 3 Housekeeping and hygiene procedures

Chemical safety is greatly enhanced when the entire workplace commits to strict housekeeping and industrial hygiene. We suggest:

  • Not leaving beakers of acid, open paint tins, solvents, de-greasers and cleaning products lying around work stations

  • Correctly labelling decanted chemicals

  • Cleaning up even small chemical spills and splashes as soon as they occur

  • Laundering and cleaning protective clothing and PPE

  • Restraining gas bottles at all times (and when not being used) keeping valves closed and caps secured

  • Washing hands after handling chemicals

  • Returning aerosol cans to a dedicated aerosol cage

Control # 4 Adequate supervision

Induction programs, restricted areas, housekeeping, and operating procedures are useless if nobody follows them. It’s essential to adequately supervise workers, contractors, non-operational staff, and other site visitors to ensure they understand chemical safety procedures and abide by them. Sometimes staff don’t follow procedures because they don’t fully understand the threat to their safety, or have never been properly trained.

IMPORTANT: When staff lose or damage PPE they often don’t report it (thinking they will get into trouble), you should check that staff are using their PPE correctly and maintaining it properly.

Control # 5 Create dedicated zones for eating, drinking, and smoking

Toxic and corrosive chemicals can be ingested or swallowed if an airborne concentration of the substance settles onto food, drinks, cigarettes, eating utensils — even beards. We suggest creating separate areas for staff to eat and drink or smoke, at the same time implementing strict personal hygiene procedures.

REMEMBER: Staff who eat after handling toxic chemicals and haven’t washed their hands properly place themselves at risk of contamination or poisoning.

Control # 6 Rotate job tasks that involve chemicals

The longer a person is a exposed to a hazardous substance, the greater the risk to their health and safety. Workers repeatedly exposed to the same substance can become sensitised and develop allergies and respiratory problems, even cancer.

Effective rostering involves analysing your workforce and rotating job crews so the same workers and contractors are not constantly exposed to the chemicals. At the same time try to minimise the number of workers actually required to safely perform the job task (this makes good financial sense too).

We recommend regularly reviewing timesheets and pay records to ensure that staff who are specifically rostered out of an unsafe area don’t repeatedly ’swap shifts’ back to their original working area.

IMPORTANT: When rotating staff don’t forget to also rotate managers and supervisors present in the area.

Control # 7 Clear purchasing and chemical supply policies

Understanding your supply chain and implementing a clear purchasing policy can be an important step in chemical safety. Your purchasing policy will streamline ordering and deliveries so that surplus quantities of chemicals are not kept on site. You could also consider purchasing premixed chemicals, and smaller tins to eliminate the need to mix them by hand or decant into smaller containers.

IMPORTANT: You can also include unloading and delivery procedures to ensure that mechanical lifting devices are used when transferring packaged chemicals or gas bottles from delivery trucks to chemical stores.

Control # 8 Wet sweeping and vacuuming methods

Wood, grain and metal dusts as well as silica create a significant respiratory hazard for workers as well as being a physical hazard (causing dust explosions and fires). Some dusts and silica are carcinogenic. We recommend cleaning procedures that minimise the generation of dust like vacuuming or wet sweeping. Wetting the dust and silica reduces airborne contaminants while sweeping (and immediately after).

Control # 9 Approval for experimental procedures

Many chemical accidents involving explosions, acid burns, and the release of dangerous chemical clouds have occurred during experimental procedures. Have a strict approval process in place for  laboratory staff who plan to undertake experimental work so that a risk assessment can be conducted and suitable controls put in place.

Control # 10 Chemical spill procedures

Train your staff to respond to a chemical spill or accidental release. This can include instructions for locating emergency showers and eyewash stations, as well as using a commercially available spill kit to safely extract chemical residues.

Next Steps

We’ve suggested 10 administrative controls that could make your workplace safer, but don’t implement any of them before downloading and reading our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace. We’ll explain how to select the control measures most appropriate to the chemical hazards at your job site, then implement them using a full risk management methodology. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below:

How to manage the risk of hazardous chemicals in the workplace

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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