Millions of U.S. workers are using chemicals in the workplace every day, and some of these chemicals have the potential to be hazardous. In 2017, more than 37,000 American workers were injured due to exposure to harmful substances.
Employers are responsible for informing their employees of the chemicals present and making sure employees are properly trained to work with the hazardous materials. Labels and safety information also should be readily available. Hazardous chemicals can cause skin and eye irritations, and some can lead to bigger health concerns. All workers have the right to a safe environment, proper training and information.
Protect Your Most Valuable Assets: Employees
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), recommends the following prevention methods in order of effectiveness:
* Eliminate harmful chemicals and/or substitute with safer alternatives
* Establish physical engineering controls in the workplace to reduce, minimize or even eliminate employee’s contact with hazardous chemicals
* Rotate shifts to make sure no employee is overexposed
* Make sure all affected employees use personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection
What Can Employees Do?
Prevention is the best line of defense, according to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). Hazardous substances have been reported to make their way home from work though clothing, tools, scraps and even on the worker’s hands.
Workers should always follow good safety practices, shower if able and leave soiled clothes at work if possible. If they are unable, they should change right away when getting home to prevent spreading chemicals to loved ones. Do not take scraps of work materials home, and launder work clothes separately to prevent the spread of chemicals.
When working from home, make sure to inform family members when hazardous materials are present, store the materials safely and keep the work environment separate from the living areas.