Hazardous chemicals can destroy health, cause severe injury, harm the environment and damage property.
Training on the safe handling of chemicals is key for any teams who work with, supply, or store hazardous materials. If you’re preparing to train your teams on chemical handling, here are some key points to cover, as well as some suggestions for formatting training sessions.
6 key points to cover in chemical handling training.
1. Protective equipment.
Educate your employees on selecting the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) to use when handling different chemicals. Required PPE may include gloves, footwear, facemasks and goggles.
PPE should only be selected after all hazards of a specific chemical or task have been identified. Safety equipment also needs to be comfortable to prevent incidents from occurring. For example, if touch sensitivity is essential for a task, textured and thin gloves are required to ensure agile movement.
2. Handling practices.
Each chemical used within your organisation should have a specific procedure for safe handling. Ensure all employees are familiar with this.
Essential aspects of safe handling practices are:
- Reading & re-reading each chemical SDS to minimize the risk of mishandling.
- Wearing PPE.
- Disposing of hazardous chemicals appropriately.
- Being prepared for emergencies with first aid.
- Not working with or handling chemicals while alone.
- Using all precautions to avoid spillage, leakage or dropping chemicals during transportation. Use specialised carriers and carts, such as a transportable gas bottle trolley.
3. The Globally Harmonised System of Classifying and Labelling Chemicals (GHS).
At the start of 2017 GHS labelling for primary and secondary containers became mandatory in most Australian states. The GHS provides a universal standard for the labelling of hazardous goods, and includes information on chemical hazards, as well as storage instructions, placards, and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
Manufacturers and suppliers should always have the correct GHS labelling on hazardous goods, so it’s important to ensure everyone understands how to read GHS labels, and is familiar with the requirements for labelling. Find out more about GHS labelling here.
4. Storage of dangerous goods.
Some chemicals can pose serious health hazards if they come into contact with, or are stored with, one another. For example, oxygen and acetylene cylinders have to be stored in separate containers with a non-flammable shield in between them to prevent a reaction.
On top of this, some chemicals need to be stored out of direct sunlight, or below a certain temperature. Storage information can be found on each chemical’s Safety Data Sheet.
5. Transportation of dangerous goods.
Whether you’re transporting hazardous materials within a work site, or between worksites, it’s essential that your team is familiar with the state or territory regulations.
Each Australian state or territory has different regulations, including no-go transport zones where chemicals can’t be transported, and specific transport documentation requirements. Be sure to contact your local transport regulator to understand your state’s requirements - and relay this information to your team.
There are also key elements to be aware of when transporting dangerous goods, including the flash points of flammable liquids, the storage temperatures of goods, and the transportation of goods on work sites. Incorporate these into your training so that your team knows what to keep in mind when moving chemicals in and around the workplace.
6. Educate on risk management policies and practices.
As part of the Australian Model Work Health and Safety Regulations, businesses have specific duties to manage risks associated with chemicals in the workplace. This means having clear risk management policies and processes in place.
Your team should be trained on all procedures and policies, including:
- Emergency plans if any unexpected accidents or reactions occur.
- Information on where fire safety and first aid equipment is stored.
- The correct way to decommission any chemical storage or handling systems.
- Spill containment systems for hazardous chemicals.
- How to assess risk surrounding dangerous goods.
1. Include a variety of training materials, including practical elements.
It’s a common saying that we remember 10% of what we read, 50% of what we see, and 80% of what we experience through practice – so the more practical elements you include in your training, the more effective it will be.
Incorporate roleplaying into your training to reinforce any policies or procedures, show videos to illustrate the risks associated with different chemicals, or use eLearning materials to test knowledge. The more varied your training, the better!
2. When possible, use real-life examples.
Keep your chemical handling training relevant to your audience and use examples that they can relate to. This means highlighting the hazards of chemicals commonly handled in your workplace, and outlining policies and procedures for situations that your team are most likely to come across on the worksite.
3. Provide tools and ongoing trainings.
There’s a lot to remember when it comes to the safe handling of chemicals, and sometimes one training just isn’t enough.
Equip your team with all the resources they need to find information on chemical handling, such as the Safe Work Australia website for hazardous chemicals, or the Hazardous Chemical Information System database where they can quickly find information on which chemicals are hazardous and any safety information that already exists.
Also schedule in annual or biannual refresher trainings, and have induction trainings in place for any new team members.
If you want to help correctly assess the hazards and risks associated with different dangerous goods, provide them with our free chemical risk assessment template. Click the image below to get started.