Chemical Risk Assessments

With the advent of REACH manufacturers/importers of chemicals are required to develop an exposure scenario should the criteria laid out under the provisions of REACH be met. In order to accomplish this, information relating to how the chemical product is used and what risk management procedures are in place will be required from down stream users.

What can seem like a chore to complete is in fact a great opportunity to review how chemicals are being handled in the workplace, and whether or not the risk management procedures are effective in negating exposure.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Prior to any risk assessment review, ensure that all chemical health and safety literature, such as MSDS is up to date. If in doubt, contact the supplier.
  1. The physical state in which the chemical is supplied may alter during its use depending on the operating/environmental conditions. For example, the use of a volatile liquid in a heated environment could give rise to an inhalation risk; a solid material which is pulverised will also give rise to the potential for exposure by inhalation, due to the generation of dust.
  1. It is also worthwhile to note that even non hazardous chemicals which are supplied as a powder can pose a health risk should contamination levels in the air become sufficiently high.
  1. The presence of settled dust within the workplace is an indication that current risk management measures are not effective (and that inhalation has probably occurred).
  1. Don’t forget to consider maintenance/repairs and cleaning tasks. These are two areas where exposure can be significantly higher – are your risk management procedures adequate?
  1. Always involve plant operators and safety representatives when reviewing a particular process/activity. This is because they may have noticed things that others less familiar with the work would fail to spot. It also encourages a “safety conscious culture”.