Avoiding workplace chemical injuries

When transporting, storing or handling hazardous chemical, there is always a fairly high risk of injury. Nevertheless the number of chemical injuries sustained in the workplace is too high and too often, workplace accidents result from employers failing to comply with health and safety laws and regulations. Given the potential dangers that employees face, it is staggering that employers can ignore such safety measures, especially when preventing chemical injuries in the workplace can be so simple.

Employers have a legal duty of care to protect their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing by fully assessing the risks in the workplace and taking measures to negate such risks. It should not be assumed that simply providing workers with personal protective equipment (or PPE as it is often referred to) will prevent chemical injuries. There are in fact a series of measures which should be taken before this to ensure that workers do not to harm, these being:

1. Removal of the hazard by ceasing use of the chemical in question

2. Substitution of the hazardous chemical with a less toxic or dangerous one

3. Separation of the hazard from members of staff so that they are not placed in harms way

4. Use of different hardware or tools to help reduce the risk posed by the hazard. For example, using an extraction system to reduce toxic gas levels

5. introduction of new safety protocols and working methods to negate the risk posed by the chemical

Where these above steps are insufficient to avoid chemical injuries, PPE should then be issued to workers; however these prior steps should be explored first of all. It is also crucial to carry out thorough risk assessments, provide training in how to safely use chemicals, ensure that workers are not exposed to dangerous chemicals for lengthy periods and ensure equipment is well-maintained.

Ultimately, if the employer fails to take the above safety measures they can be said to have breached their legal duty of care and acted contrary to UK laws and regulations regarding health and safety. Under such circumstances, employees who sustain chemical injuries are likely to be able to sue their employer for negligence.

 

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