Hazardous chemical safety training for managers and supervisors

Feb 10, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles
Chemical safety is the responsibility of the whole team, with managers and supervisors playing an essential role in enforcing operational procedures and housekeeping practices. We see many of our clients who have purchased and installed safety equipment (eg, chemical safety cabinets or pallet bunds), allowing these important items to fall into disrepair or worse — used incorrectly. This blog is about essential HAZCHEM training for your managers and supervisors, because these are the people who protect your investment and make sure that staff use equipment correctly and put those chemicals away.

Understanding chemical hazards and safety equipment

When is comes to chemical safety, managers and supervisors have dual roles. First they must understand chemical hazards, and follow operational procedures to keep themselves safe in the workplace. Then they must ensure the staff they supervise possess the knowledge and skills to carry out their jobs tasks without getting injured or sick.

You can’t enforce workplace safety if you don’t know the correct procedures yourself, so all managers and supervisors also need to undergo the same basic safety training as the people they will also be supervising. This part of their training includes things like:

Supervisors must lead by example, following every safety procedure correctly themselves. Every time.

Understanding their role as a safety supervisor

When managers and supervisors are recruited from production-based roles they usually have excellent technical knowledge but arrive into the job with a limited leadership and consultative skills. Your safety training program should also focus on their role as leaders and how they impact the safety of every individual worker, as well as the entire worksite.

The focus of the training is not about being the ‘safety police’,  it should always be about their role in preventing chemical accidents, making sure the organisation is complying with the law, and keeping people safe from harm. Your training should teach supervisors how to include chemical safety in their daily management practices and give them the confidence to follow up and take action when they observe unsafe work practices. Things like:

  • Gas cylinders left unrestrained inside the gas bottle cage.

  • Chemical containers stacked unsafely and at risk of falling over.

  • Aerosol cans left on work benches after use and not put away into a dedicated aerosol storage cage.

  • Bunded pallets and chemical stores overloaded and now exceed the spill containment capacity.

  • Incompatible substances found in the same chemical store.

  • Welding and other maintenance work that produces sparks conducted within 3 metres of Dangerous Goods stores

Your training should also help supervisors understand how workplace accidents can occur more frequently during staff shortages or when employees face extra work demands. It’s during these times staff begin to take shortcuts or experience fatigue. This is especially dangerous when hazardous chemicals are involved.

Non-safety training that promotes chemical safety

When safety equipment falls into disrepair, or overall housekeeping fails to meet acceptable standards, it isn’t always because managers and supervisors are being lazy or slack. Sometimes newly appointed managers and supervisors have trouble prioritising production pressures and find themselves overwhelmed when breakdowns or blockages create unavoidable delays.

Now they’re so ‘snowed under’ they fail to follow up when staff aren’t putting chemicals away in the correct safety cabinets, or leaving fuel containers on their workbenches with the lids off. Helping your managers and supervisors improve their delegation, time management, and leadership skills will ultimately improve productivity and free up their time to devote to safety matters.

Imagine the impact on overall chemical safety if your supervisors had the time each day to:

  • Provide greater training and support to workers beyond their initial safety induction.

  • Take immediate action when staff are not wearing PPE or using chemicals correctly.

  • Replace missing or damaged warning placards.

  • Closely managing the behaviour and safety standards of external contractors.

  • Liaise with workers about the effectiveness of engineering controls.

  • Implement shift change meetings that focus on chemical safety issues as well as production and quality.

  • Perform visual checks on chemical containers, decanting stations, and safety cabinets.

Next Steps

As a hazard control measure, safety training is categorised as an administrative control. It’s a workplace essential, but to be effective must accompany a range of other chemical safety controls. We recommend downloading our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace to learn how staff and supervisor training fits into a compliant risk management plan. Download and read it today and get your workplace 100% chemical safety compliant.

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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