Employers are responsible for implementing safety measures for their employees. In fact, the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2000 has approved codes of practice for each industry to secure people’s health, safety and welfare at work. The code serves to prevent accidents and exposure to chemical spills.
Unprecedented spillage may still happen, however, despite precautionary codes. Natural calamity, wear and tear of equipment and human error can override safety procedures and result in chemical spills. In these circumstances, workers may be vulnerable to chemical exposure in three ways.
Certain chemicals have very distinct and strong smells that can cause disorientation or headaches. Others are vaporous and can quickly enter the body through the respiratory system. Examples of those chemicals are chlorine, carbon monoxide, lead, sulphur dioxide and kerosene.
Aerosol chemicals are not the only things people may accidentally inhale. Particulates, such as powdered chemicals, wood dust, cement dust and ash, may also enter the body through inhalation and cause a range of health problems like asthma and chemical pneumonitis.
When chemicals come in direct contact with the skin, it may result in isolated reactions like rashes, redness, burns and stinging. By definition, hazardous chemicals can cause significant harm only under certain conditions — the primary one being repetitive or prolonged contact with the substance. But this doesn’t justify allowing regular exposure.
If a chemical spill occurs, management must contain it immediately with spill control kits. Argyle Commercial, a spill control expert in Australia, recommends keeping spill control supplies with high manufacturing standards. These make it possible for industries to quickly and safely clean up hazardous spills.
Health authorities consider ingestion as a secondary exposure pathway after skin exposure. People may accidentally transmit the hazardous substance to their food via their clothing or hands. This can be more dangerous than skin contact because it introduces particulates and chemicals into the bloodstream, extending their effects to the rest of the body.
When prevention fails, facilities need to do damage control immediately to prevent widespread exposure. They can cover their bases by following OHS codes of practice and keeping spill control kits on hand.