Hazardous chemicals can cause harm when they enter the body in sufficient amounts via
- injection or
- skin absorption.
Therefore, suitable control measures must be implemented to minimize exposure so as to safeguard the safety and health of workers. The nature of the hazardous chemical and the routes by which it enters the body determines the type of controls that are needed. The precautions taken to control these risks arising from chemical hazards is usually established following an appropriate risk assessment-involving the nature of risk present in a workplace and existing control measures.
These control measures can take the form of
- engineering measures,
- safe work practices,
- administrative measures and
- personal protective equipment (PPE).
The following hierarchy should be followed in choosing control measures:
- Eliminate the hazard;
- Use physical or engineering controls which reduce risk at source & provides general protection;
- Control the risks to the person by job design, management and Personal Protective Equipment/Device.
- Elimination The first priority for control of any significant risk to health is to try to eliminate completely the agent responsible. The hazard can be eliminated at source by replacement with materials which do the same job but present no risk to health.
Example: • Paint manufactures have been able to eliminate the use of xylene in paint making. • The use of clips, clamps and bolts instead of adhesives. Although elimination of risk is an ideal control measure, it is often not practicable. The next option becomes reducing the risk by substituting the hazardous chemical with a different one with less potential to harm.
- Substitution It is important to ensure that the potentially harmful properties of any proposed replacement are taken into account to ensure that substitution does not introduce different but equally unacceptable risks.
Example: (a) Using the same material but in a different form such as using granulated pottery glazes rather than powders to reduce the risk of dust inhalation. (b) Replacing isocyianate based paint with water based paint.