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Conduct a risk assessment for hazardous chemicals in three easy steps so they don't harm your employees and damage your property

by , 20 February 2015
You must identify risks to the safety and health of your employees (OHS Act). And take steps to manage these risks.

If you work with chemicals, these rules become quite crucial.

If you don't identify the risks, the chemicals could harm your employees, damage your property and equipment and even harm the environment. And the DoL will charge you non-compliance penalties or shut your business down.

Don't take that risk.

Take these three steps to conduct a risk assessment for hazardous chemicals.

Before we get to the steps, let's look at the type of person who must do this risk assessment

The person doing the risk assessment must have the ability to:
  • Interpret the information in MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheet from suppliers) and on labels;
  • Observe work conditions and foresee potential problems;
  • Communicate effectively with employees, contract workers, managers, specialists, etc;
  • Draw all information together in a systematic way to form valid conclusions about exposure and risks; and
  • Report findings correctly.
Now that a look at the steps for the risk assessment below…

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Take this quick quiz to find out if you can handle the DoL hot seat
  • Which risk assessments have to be checked by an approved inspector every two years?
  • Is it absolutely necessary for your company to appoint and train someone as a risk assessor?
  • When was the last time you did a risk assessment? (Is that too long?)
  • Have you checked and double checked the less obvious health hazards?

If you can't answer even one of these questions you're not only putting your employee's lives at risk; you're also putting yourself in danger of massive fine from the DoL.
Don't wait until it's too late.
Learn how to do your risk assessments correctly here.

Three steps is all it takes to conduct a risk assessment for hazardous chemicals

Step 1: Identify substances or hazardous chemicals
Identify all the chemical substances your employees use to do their work. Examples of substances include gas, liquid, solid, vapour, dust or mist.
Some of the ways you can identify these are to:
  • Check inventory or stock lists;
  • Check all the areas employees use chemicals or store them;
  • Consider what substances might be produced as your employees do their work.
Once you have all your information, compile an inventory of the substances you use on site.
This inventory forms the basis of your risk assessment.
Step 2: Assess the risks
You must determine if a substance is released into your workplace by considering the following:
  • Direct contact with the substance;
  • Evidence of previous splashes;
  • Clear evidence of contamination;
  • Symptoms of exposure that your employees experience; and
  • Previous Occupational Hygiene or Health Survey results.
After this, consider everyone who may be exposed to the substance. Also determine their level of exposure and periods of exposure.

Step 3: Identify precautionary measures
You must consider the following, in order of priority, to achieve control:
  • Eliminate the hazards (remove them from the workplace);
  • Substitute with a less hazardous substance (use water based paint instead of oil-based paint, for example);
  • Isolate (prevent access to the hazardous chemical);
  • Engineering controls (use local exhaust ventilation);
  • Administration controls (for example, give your employees safety training); and
  • Personal protective equipment (for example, give employees face masks, safety glasses, etc).
These steps will only take you half way when it comes to your risk assessment for hazardous chemicals. To discover two additional steps you must follow to complete your risk assessment, check out the Risk Assessment: The 100% legally compliant risk assessment toolkit. It will guide you and give more details on the three steps above. This way, you can make sure hazardous chemicals don't harm your employees and damage your property.

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