Working in construction presents itself with a number of hazards to always be aware of; but working around chemicals increases your concerns.

It's integral for you to be aware of the chemicals that you will be working around, whether you are directly using them in your job or the work site is a facility where chemicals are used and/or stored. Anything from solids to fumes can have a negative impact on your health and wellness, so it's important to be prepared. Factors like the type of chemical, its usage and its form will factor into your safety preparation.

Consider this example that Managing Safely discussed in their May 2015 newsletter:

"A worker was using methyl hydrate to score laminated glass in an auto shop. The methyl hydrate was stored in a plastic jug with a nail hole punched near the top. He squirted methyl hydrate onto the cut line and moved the jug a short distance away. After the methyl hydrate on the cut line was ignited, the flame followed the fluid back to the jug, which caught fire and exploded. The worker was severely burned, and the auto shop caught on fire."

Managing Safely then pointed to issues that could have led to the incident being avoided:

1. The worker was not using an approved safety bottle to dispense the chemical.

2. The worker did not limit the usage of the chemical to the necessary amount in a controlled stream.

3. The container was not placed on a separate surface from where he was working before igniting the chemical.

The concerns of chemicals are numerous and include the following:

  • Fire and burns - as illustrated above, burning can result from improper use and storage of flammable or combustible chemicals. Non-fire burns are also possible.
  • Explosions - under certain conditions (including temperature), compressed chemicals or reactive substances can explode
  • Toxic and dangerous reactions - inhalation or other absorption into the human body can react in negative reactions, up to and including death. Exposure to other elements can also produce negative chemical reactions that can result in a toxic environment.

If you are working in a facility where chemicals are employed, be sure to take the following precautions:

  1. Take inventory of chemicals and their hazardous properties and conditions.
  2. Identity substances that are subject to WHMIS requirements
  3. Asses risk from exposure and take all necessary precautions.
  4. Identify opportunities for concerning chemicals to be removed from the worksite.
  5. Review any possible contamination in the work space due to the chemicals.
  6. Create and execute safe work procedures. Include information and training to workers about the dangers that can be cause by improper interaction with chemicals.

Additional Reading

WHMIS and Your Right to Know