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Creating Safer Chemical-handling Environments

By Matt Hayas
June 10, 2019

 

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) applies to more than 43 million U.S. workers who produce or handle hazardous chemicals in over five million workplaces. With June being National Safety Month, it’s an important time for every organization dealing with chemicals to reconfirm its commitment to the health and well-being of all workers.

 

 

 

Workplace Hazards

 

The HCS defines a hazardous chemical as “any chemical which can cause a physical or a health hazard.”[1] OSHA estimated that the 2012 revision to the standard would prevent over 500 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 fatalities annually.[2]

 

Chemicals are found in solid, liquid and gas form. Often, employees must handle chemicals in their liquid form, such as glues, paint, pesticides, acids and cleaning products. While personal protective equipment like gloves, goggles and respirators can help reduce risks when handling these chemicals, not every worker follows these precautions. It’s possible that employees assume that the chemicals they’re using are non-toxic. This may be the case for some products, as more organizations shift to safer and more sustainable solutions but is not true for every chemical.

 

Cleaning with Chemicals & Dispensers

 

To limit contact with cleaning chemicals in settings like restaurants, hotels and office buildings, and laundry chemicals in on-premise and commercial laundry facilities, facility managers can install dispensers. Dispensers house the necessary chemicals and allow them to be easily dispensed into sinks, buckets, spray bottles and floor care machines, as well as industrial laundry machines.

 

With these systems in place, gone are the days of measurement guesswork and pouring chemicals from larger containers, which can result in splashes and spills that lead to dangerous slip or fall accidents or harmful chemical burns. In fact, OSHA reports that 40% of all janitorial injuries involve eye irritations or burns from chemical.[3] Additionally, 36% of injuries are caused by skin irritation or burns and 12% from breathing in chemical fumes.

 

This manual method of dispensing chemicals can also result in incorrect dilutions. For example, if an employee uses too much chemical, it can cause surface damage or even an unpleasant residue. Meanwhile, too little chemical results in unsatisfactory results and often requires surfaces to be cleaned again.

 

 

To maximize the safety, sustainability and cost-saving benefits that dispensers offer, facility managers should look for dispensers with the following features:

 

  • Locking capabilities: Chemical dispensers enhance safety by keeping products behind locked enclosures and locking buttons allow users to save time when filling large volumes, such as sinks or mop buckets.
  • Advanced technology: Dispensing systems are much more reliable when they are capable of regulating water pressure, which can fluctuate throughout the day. The unit should also be able to produce multiple dilutions, as multi-purpose chemicals require different dilutions for different cleaning tasks. Lastly, the unit should be leak-proof to eliminate the risk of spills and unnecessary waste.
  • A user-friendly interface: Dispensing systems should be easy to use. Look for one with a simple interface that offers color coding to make training a breeze and reduce the risk of dispensing errors.
  • Simple installation: Easy-to-install systems can be used more quickly. To reduce installation time, and help with maintenance and tubing purposes, look for a compact unit that offers ample working space. There are even “pre-plumbed” systems that just require the installer to hang the dispenser on the wall.

 

Once a dispenser is installed, make sure to train employees who will be using the system so that they understand how it functions and can dispense chemicals for various applications.

 

Better Safe than Sorry

 

While National Safety Month serves as a reminder to assess and improve workplace safety, every month should be a safe one. In many workplaces, chemicals present risks when the proper precautions aren’t taken by employers and those handling these substances. Thankfully, today’s chemical dispensing systems enable closed-loop chemical dosing to protect employees from potentially hazardous or irritating liquid chemicals.

 

Selecting a reliable system allows for accurate chemical dosing and also reduces waste and costs associated with excess chemical use. These units are not only an investment in employee safety, but also environmental responsibility and cost control, making them a must-have for workplaces that use chemicals.

 

Matt Hayas is global product manager for Hydro Systems. For more information about Hydro Systems, a world leader in delivering chemical dispensing and dosing solutions including equipment, software and services, visit www.hydrosystemsco.com.


1. United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3514.html

2. OSHA Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/HCSFactsheet.html

3. Toward Safer Cleaning Operations. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ohsonline.com/Articles/2013/11/01/Toward-Safer-Cleaning-Operations.aspx?Page=2