It doesn't take a large accident or serious oversight to result in an injury or illness on the job. That risk is even greater when working around hazardous chemicals, and employees in many sectors, including construction, can all be subjected to these dangers.
Simply mishandling dangerous chemicals can lead to a work-related illness, and exposure must be on the minds of all employers. These specific health risks are constantly changing, and new chemicals, procedures and regulations can all mitigate the danger or increase confusion surrounding proper risk management.
Here is some information to shed light on why hazardous chemicals are a point of emphasis in the construction industry, and how you can prevent illnesses and increased workers' compensation insurance claims.
OSHA: Exposure standards 'outdated'
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, chemical exposure standards aren't current enough to provide ample protection to this country's workforce.
As a result, the government agency recently started a national dialog to address this issue and pitch effective safety solutions. The first step is to ask for additional information from organizations on existing chemical exposures and risk management.
"Many of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers," said OSHA assistant secretary of labor Dr. David Michaels. "While we will continue to work on updating our workplace exposure limits, we are asking public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and others committed to preventing workplace illnesses to help us identify new approaches to address chemical hazards."
Develop a preventative plan
Whether your business handles dangerous chemicals on a regular basis or not, having a plan to prevent these risks is a smart decision. OSHA regulations require employers that manufacture and import chemicals to know their hazards and have safety information available for clients. Any company that has chemicals on site at any time must convey the risk to workers.
Then, you can develop an effective risk management plan. This should include a couple of steps, as outlined by OSHA:
1. Share information
Your first step is to disseminate information among the company. You can't create an effective plan without awareness and understanding. Talk among your staff about chemical hazards, ask for feedback on existing policies and guidelines and work together for a better solution. As you craft more cohesive safety information, ensure that all that data is shared throughout the company.
2. Create a response system
Loss control will be contingent on your response. Should a chemical accident occur, you need to have a plan in place. Outline the steps each employee must take, including the appropriate emergency services to contact. Practice your response on a regular basis.