OSHA Handbook for Small Businesses

Hazardous Chemical Exposure

Hazardous Chemical Exposure

  • Are employees trained in the safe handling practices of hazardous chemicals such as acids, caustics, etc.?
  • Are employees aware of the potential hazards involving various chemicals stored or used in the workplace such as acids, bases, caustics, epoxies, and phenols?
  • Is employee exposure to chemicals kept within acceptable levels?
  • Are eye wash fountains and safety showers provided in areas where corrosive chemicals are handled?
  • Are all containers, such as vats, and storage tanks labeled as to their contents, e.g., "CAUSTICS"?
  • Are all employees required to use personal protective clothing and equipment when handling chemicals (gloves, eye protection, and respirators)?
  • Are flammable or toxic chemicals kept in closed containers when not in use?
  • Are chemical piping systems clearly marked as to their content?
  • Where corrosive liquids are frequently handled in open containers or drawn from storage vessels or pipe lines, are adequate means readily available for neutralizing or disposing of spills or overflows and performed properly and safely?
  • Have standard operating procedures been established, and are they being followed when cleaning up chemical spills?
  • Where needed for emergency use, are respirators stored in a convenient, clean, and sanitary location?
  • Are respirators intended for emergency use adequate for the various uses for which they may be needed?
  • Are employees prohibited from eating in areas where hazardous chemicals are present?
  • Is personal protective equipment provided, used and maintained whenever necessary?
  • Are there written standard operating procedures for the selection and use of respirators where needed?
  • If you have a respirator protection program, are your employees instructed on the correct usage and limitations of the respirators? Are the respirators NIOSH-approved for this particular application? Are they regularly inspected and cleaned, sanitized and maintained?
  • If hazardous substances are used in your processes, do you have a medical or biological monitoring system in operation?
  • Are you familiar with the Threshold Limit Values or Permissible Exposure Limits of airborne contaminants and physical agents used in your work-place?
  • Have control procedures been instituted for hazardous materials, where appropriate, such as respirators, ventilation systems, and handling practices?
  • Whenever possible, are hazardous substances handled in properly designed and exhausted booths or similar locations?
  • Do you use general dilution or local exhaust ventilation systems to control dusts, vapors, gases, fumes, smoke, solvents or mists which may be generated in your workplace?
  • Is ventilation equipment provided for removal of contaminants from such operations as production grinding, buffing, spray painting, and/or vapor degreasing, and is it operating properly?
  • Do employees complain about dizziness, headaches, nausea, irritation, or other factors of discomfort when they use solvents or other chemicals?
  • Is there a dermatitis problem? Do employees complain about dryness, irritation, or sensitization of the skin?
  • Have you considered the use of an industrial hygienist or environmental health specialist to evaluate your operation?
  • If internal combustion engines are used, is carbon monoxide kept within acceptable levels?
  • Is vacuuming used, rather than blowing or sweeping dusts whenever possible for clean-up?
  • Are materials which give off toxic asphyxiant, suffocating or anesthetic fumes, stored in remote or isolated locations when not in use?