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hsm-oct14

34 PREMISES See more like this online at: www.hsmsearch.com CHEMICAL WARFARE Jim Lilley, European health safety & welfare senior manager at Office Depot, looks at ways to minimise the impact of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Many firms use hazardous chemicals in their production, manufacturing and maintenance processes. These companies must be sure to implement a hierarchy of control measures to reduce the risk of harm to employees.  First of all, wherever possible the need for the hazardous chemical should be removed from the process. If this is not practical then it may be possible to source a less hazardous alternative. There is a common misconception that a less harmful product will incur a greater cost, in my experience this simply isn’t the case. If you look hard enough it is usually possible to find alternative products at the same or even a reduced price. Facilities managers must remain proactive and take the initiative to browse the market for superior products, the choice available is bigger and better than ever.  At this stage of selecting a new product, a thorough analysis of the material safety data sheet (MSDS) is required, now although the quality of MSDS has improved greatly in recent years, they may not 100% accurate. The manufacturer may have changed the ingredients of a chemical without updating the MSDS and of course there is room for human error.  For this reason, companies planning to substitute chemicals must also consult with their operatives and managers as part of the decision making process. With their input a thorough investigation must be made into the impact this change may have on other parts of the business, to ensure the most suitable alternative is selected. Next it is advisable to conduct a controlled trial of the product to ensure that it does not introduce any new hazards and does the job that it is supposed to. This is where your operatives are worth their weight in gold, as they alone can comment on the impact this change will have on their day to day productivity. Safety representatives, managers, engineers and possibly even the manufacturer of any machinery in use should also be consulted to ensure no oversights are made.  Again, if a product substitution is not viable, the next measure in the hierarchy is to restrict the risk within an isolated area which, when coupled with guarding, can significantly reduce operatives’ exposure to hazardous chemicals.  Staff who are still required to work with, or are exposed to the hazardous chemical should receive training on how to work with the product safely and should know the risk factors involved in doing so. Emergency response teams must be trained and on standby to deal with any problems as they occur. Their standard procedures must be supported by emergency response plans which should be updated through regular testing of a simulated incident. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) doesn’t specify how often a review should be undertaken, however in my experience a once yearly examination of best practice in this area help to ensure employee safety.  The final resort in controlling hazardous chemicals is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as protective gloves, goggles and ventilation masks to shield the wearer from the ill effects of any chemicals they are working with. This measure must only be undertaken if all other preventative measures have been exhausted, and feedback from operatives is key in selecting the products best suited for purpose.  On the whole, any reviews of hazardous chemicals should be made in conjunction with a broader review of working conditions, environment and the procedures already in place. This synergistic approach can yield a much greater reduction in risks than a stand alone review which will in turn promote greater employee satisfaction. Tel: 0116 237 2001 “Facilities managers must remain proactive and take the initiative to browse the market for superior products.”


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