Five Common Chemical Irritants In The Workplace
Industrial work environments requiring physical labor pose a variety of risk. Injuries can occur from lifting, straining or moving, but also from contact with irritants and chemicals in the warehouse or distribution center. The safety and security of employees should be the number one priority of any business. A manufacturer or distributor should pay particular attention to chemicals that could cause injury or illness, and take action to prevent any safety issues.
Chlorine is a common household chemical and a workplace staple used in cleaning. The chemical, found in cleaners and especially bleach, if not used cautiously, can cause coughing, watery eyes, nausea and vomiting. If chlorine is regularly used in your company’s workplace, make sure you have emergency eyewash equipment available, should employees get chlorine in their eyes.
Prevention measures include wearing personal protective equipment such as goggles, aprons and gloves when working with chlorine. And, in case of accidental contact, make sure that your employees read the advisory on the product label and follow all instructions.
A common chemical found is a variety of cleaners (and even food) is lye. Contact with lye results in skin irritation and burns, and it can cause blindness when the chemical comes in contact with the eyes. Lye also produces a hazardous gas when mixed with substances such as aluminum, chromium, magnesium, and tin. In the event that an employee comes in contact with lye in the workplace, you will notice skin irritation and red sores or rashes. Ensure employees wear appropriate safety gear when working with lye and that they understand what other substances may produce a hazardous gas when mixed with it.
Asbestos can harm skin and cause respiratory illness. The chemical compound is found in construction material, textile products, automotive brakes, and fireproofing materials. If employees work with or near asbestos and experience a decrease in lung function, they should be evaluated by a doctor.
People who work in new construction frequently come into contact with insulation. Depending on the types of insulation, the signs of contact vary. Spray-foam insulation could be especially hazardous, as it releases particles into the air that may irritate the skin and airways. When working around insulation, employees should wear protective clothing, including masks to prevent inhalation.
Unless you work in a sterile environment, there is always the potential of coming into contact with paint. Although newly manufactured paint no longer contains the dangerous chemical lead, older structures and buildings – such as structures built before 1978 – may still have traces of lead-based paint present. If you work in the painting or remodeling industry, your workers must exercise extreme caution when scraping old paint. Lead can cause brain damage and problems with neonatal development in pregnant women.
Companies can set a good example for workers by proactively outlining company policies on safety and the use of protective equipment. Many workplace injuries occur due to momentary lapses in judgment – like when a worker forgets to put his goggles on before working with a hazardous liquid. Employers should schedule safety protocol meetings to talk to your workers about potential dangers in the workplace, and how to defend against those. And every employer should always make sure to provide employees with the safety gear they need to be adequately protected on the job.
Grady Winston is an avid internet entrepreneur and guest blogger from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.