Chemical Industry Safety Programs

Contractors frequently work with a wide variety of chemicals to carry out their work. More often than not, these chemicals are hazardous to human health, and they can cause injury if handled incorrectly. In fact, in the United States alone, more than 50,000 fatalities are reported annually due to workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals. If you own a contractor company, it is your responsibility to make sure that your company abides by all chemical safety standards and regulations and that your employees are properly trained for handling hazardous chemicals.


Risks of Handling Hazardous Chemicals

You should always perform thorough research about a chemical before working with it. The detrimental effects of a chemical may not be obvious during exposure, and this is why it is so important to understand the side effects beforehand.

The health risks posed by hazardous chemicals depend on a variety of factors. First, the degree of risk depends on the chemical itself. Second, the risk depends on how long and in what manner a person is exposed to a chemical. Lastly, the risk depends on whether a person is wearing any personal protective equipment (PPE) when exposed to a chemical.

Chemical Assessment Risk Terms:

  • Ceiling Limit: The maximum amount a worker can be exposed to a chemical.
  • Short-Term Exposure Limit (STEL): The average exposure to a chemical to which a worker may be exposed during a short time period (typically 15 – 30 minutes).
  • Time-Weighted Average (TWA): The acceptable average exposure to a chemical over a given period of time, typically 8-hours.

The OSHA Occupational Chemical Database is an important resource for learning about different chemicals and their corresponding safe exposure times.

Overexposure to hazardous chemicals, as well as improper use of PPE when handling hazardous chemicals, can pose a wide variety of short- and long-term side effects. The list of hazardous chemicals is virtually endless, but here are three common examples.

  • Chemical Exposure to PVC: PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is commonly used to coat pipes and provide insulation for electrical wiring. If handled incorrectly, PVC can cause cancer, neurological damage, and reproductive damage.
  • Exposure to Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is often found in polymers used in plywood and carpet manufacture, and it also exists in resins. This chemical is a carcinogen, and it is an irritant to the body’s mucous membranes.
  • Exposure to Silica: Silica commonly exists as dust, and it is a component of bricks, glass, and concrete. When inhaled, silica can cause chronic lung problems, lung cancer, and kidney cancer.


Benefits of Industrial Safety Programs & Training

Developing thorough safety protocols that support and encourage safety culture within the workplace has many benefits. Safety programs that are geared towards your industry and your unique work environments help give your team the knowledge they need to perform their jobs safely. Frequent training that is easily accessible ensures everyone has the most current and accurate information. 


Benefits of industrial safety programs and trainings include:

  • Increased employee awareness
  • Decreased injuries & illness
  • Limits potential hazards 
  • Prevents jobsite accidents
  • Promotes strong safety culture
  • Boosts job productivity
  • Ensures ongoing safety compliance


Safety Programs for Hazardous Chemicals

Hazardous chemicals pose such a significant threat to workers because their harm can remain undetected for years. As humans, we have a tendency to ignore safety precautions if we cannot instantly assess the severity of a risk. A nail gun seems more dangerous than a sheet of foam containing PVC, but in reality, we should be more wary of the silent killer: hazardous chemicals.

This is why it is critical for you to train your employees with thorough chemical safety compliance programs. Safety programs for your company will be dependent upon the nature of your work, and the specific kinds of chemicals that exist within your workplace. However, here are some common programs to consider:

  • Respirator Use
  • Hazardous Communication labels, safety data sheets, etc
  • Hazardous Storage

If you are a contractor who primarily works with chemicals, then you will likely be asked by your hiring client to undergo qualification with either Avetta® or ISNetworld®. Chemical safety certification is a common requirement in both the US and Canada, though other countries may require certification as well.


Warning Signs to Change Your Safety Practices

If you have failed the process of chemical safety certification, check your gap report to see if your safety programs affected your grade. If you lost points in this area, then you are failing to meet either national or client-specific safety standards. Most companies do not formally write their safety programs before applying for certification, but they should. Even if your company has a decent track record, documenting your safety programs ensures that all employees are on the same page, and it helps you communicate your on-site practices to potential clients.

If you have passed certification, you may still want to think about improving your safety programs after an employee injury. To prevent future problems, you should look at every incident as something that could have been prevented with better safety programs. It is so easy for one incident to become a pattern if you don’t pay close attention. Make sure you keep detailed records of OSHA-recordable incidents and routinely schedule employee training so that everyone remembers to work with safety at the front of their minds.


Benefits of a Safety Compliance Consultant

The use of a safety compliance consultant has additional benefits for contractors. Using a compliance consultant shows industrial qualification firms and potential hiring clients that you are operating in good faith. Contractors who work hand in hand with a third-party consulting company, show that a good faith effort is being put forth towards improving the safety of their employees.

State and federal regulations are constantly being reviewed and revised to address new concerns in regards to environmental responsibility, safety, and employee health. New equipment, new processes and new technology all create new opportunities for risk requiring new regulation and safety measures. Industrial compliance safety consultants monitor these regulation and certification updates for you. They keep your company responsible and responsive to industry changes while your team maintains focus on the job. 

At Industrial Compliance & Safety, our professional team can help your company achieve compliance with chemical safety. You can become certified by a variety of prequalification services, including ISNetworld® and Avetta®. If you choose to work with our team of safety compliance consultants, we will write custom safety programs that both satisfy your client’s needs and protect your employees from the many risks within this unique industry. Contact us today to create a new program or update your existing one.