How To Deal With Hazardous Materials in the Workplace

While people tend to think of their workplaces as safe areas, the fact is that almost every one contains some hazardous materials. Depending on the type of business, hazardous materials may be more prevalent in some workplaces than others.

It is obviously important to take care when handling hazardous materials in the course of one’s work, and transporting them requires competent authority approval. However, what happens when a potentially hazardous material spills due to an accident in the workplace?

The following article will explain what hazardous materials are and what to do if you come across a spill in the workplace.

What Are Hazardous Materials?

Different government agencies have slightly different definitions of hazardous material. The Department of Transportation defines it as an item or chemical that poses a risk to public safety when transported. The Environmental Protection Agency defines it as a chemical or other item that can cause harm to animals, human beings, or plants when released into the environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines it as any chemical or substance that could pose a physical hazard or a health hazard. Examples include the following:

  • Radioactive materials
  • Muriatic acid
  • Poisons
  • Mercury lamps
  • Propane
  • Herbicides
  • Automotive fluids
  • Household cleaning products

OSHA considers substances or chemicals to be hazardous if they are flammable, combustible, or otherwise unstable; have the potential to cause cancer; or can damage certain areas of the body, including the skin, eyes, or lungs. Hazardous materials can enter the body via inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the eyes or skin.

What Should You Do About a Spill in the Workplace?

Usually, hazardous materials are kept under careful control. However, if you come upon a spill as a resulting from an accident, you should maintain a safe distance. Assume that the spilled material is extremely toxic. Close off the room where the spill occurred or the entire building, if necessary. Notify the appropriate authority with the company as well as emergency services.

You can remember these steps with the acronym SIN, which stands for safety, isolation, and notification.