This bulletin aims to improve the general knowledge of chemicals and chemical safety.
An Introduction to chemicals and chemical safety
If you have any of the following in your place of work you will need to comply with the COSHH Regulations:
- Cleaning products
- Oils/lubricants for machines
- Paints and adhesives
- Chemicals that you process
- Hidden chemicals
Some chemicals are classified as hazardous and can be extremely harmful, therefore the chemicals need to be identified and control measures put in place to prevent harm.
With this in mind we need to identify:
- How the chemical/substance can affect employees
- How the chemical/substance affects processes
- Impact on environment and ecosystem
Routes of Exposure
Chemicals can be present in dust, liquid, gases etc and have four main routes of exposure:
All of these routes can cause harm either by directly effecting at the point of contact or absorbed into the body.
Breathing in contaminated air is the most common way that workplace chemicals enter the body Chemicals may be in the form of gases, vapours, dusts or mists. Once chemicals are breathed in, they can enter our lungs and from there be absorbed into the bloodstream, thus affecting different organs depending on the chemical.
Absorption can occur through skin or eye contact. Some chemicals, by direct or indirect contact, can damage the skin and eyes or pass through them into the bloodstream. Broken, cut or cracked skin will allow substances to enter the body more easily. Sometimes rashes can occur, and skin irritations may develop over time through frequent use. Symptoms can be acute although, sometimes chronic.
Time can be imperative in serious situations ie. an eye wash station in the event a chemical accident. This could be the difference in preserving eyesight.
Ingestion through the mouth is a route that is often dismissed as something that is unlikely to happen. However, this could mean through food or unclean hands. To prevent this, hygiene policies should be followed.
Injection occurs when a sharp object punctures the skin and injects a chemical directly into the bloodstream.
- Dangerous for the Environment
A chemical may have multiple hazards and pictograms associated with them. These combine to form the classification of the chemical. The classification information for the chemical can be found in section 2 of the safety data sheet and also on the product label.
Should you require any further information, clarification or assistance please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01268 649006.