The use of chemicals in the Print and Packaging industries is unavoidable and has many benefits like cleaning, solvent recovery, adhesives, etching, the list goes on. Together with the many benefits, are the associated risks and hazards that are unavoidable and must be managed to ensure that they do not become a threat to employees, the environment and anyone else associated with their use. Familiarity breeds complacency; because we have used something for years, does not mean that we have become immune to it. Health implications associated with chemical exposure are either immediate or long term. Chemicals can be inhaled from fumes in the air, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Exposure can lead to headaches, nausea, lack in concentration, skin irritation, intoxication, tiredness and damage to the organs in the body. Below are just a few of the many guidelines to manage the risks and hazards associated with the use of chemicals: •Ensure that you have a Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for every chemical used in your factory. •Know where the MSDS is stored, preferably there should be a central register where all MSDS’s are kept and a copy should also be kept at the point of use of the chemical. •Include risk assessments in your register. A risk assessment will take into consideration the probability and severity of chemical exposure. •All employees should be trained on proper chemical handling and what to do in an emergency; refresher courses are required to maintain that safety stays top of mind. •First aid safety reps should be trained, per area and per shift. •Provide and maintain proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The PPE should be appropriate for its use. This includes gloves, respirators and goggles etc. •Keep minimal quantities of chemicals on your site. Old expired chemicals and those that are no longer used should be removed off site by a registered waste control company. •Ensure chemicals are labelled with the correct name and that the correct packaging is being used. Avoid the use of chemicals being stored in cool drink bottles etc. •Housekeeping is very important in an environment where chemicals are being used; spills should be cleaned up and chemicals should be put away after use. Always keep an adequately stocked spill kit. •Have an emergency plan and conduct emergency drills to ensure that employees familiarise themselves with the plan. •Ensure work areas are kept well ventilated. •Ensure that you have the correct fire fighting equipment and that it is properly maintained. •Keep flammable chemicals away from sources of ignition. •Chemicals should be bunded or a chemical spill tray should be used to control spills. •Rags that are soaked with solvent should be stored separately and in a covered bin. These are just a few of the requirements for safe chemical use and storage. For more information, please consult the appropriate training providers in your area. By Sharvina Roopchand
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