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How to Handle Materials Safely in an Industrial Workplace

Whether you are an employer or an employee, you should do everything in your power to keep yourself and others safe while in a workplace environment. Every workplace has risks and hazards associated to it, but there are some industries where the risk of an accident is even greater. In particular, if appropriate safety measures are not implemented and followed, the industrial sector can be a dangerous place to work in. Accidents can result in serious injuries and even death, followed by hefty consequences such as fines, imprisonment, and reputation damage. That’s why there are a series of procedures and regulations in place to ensure the health and safety of workers and site visitors.

P. Airey Tail Lifts, a tail lift specialist, and Auto Extract Systems, a dust and fume extraction company, know all about the hazards of industrial workplaces. They have teamed up to provide us with this article which explores potential hazards in industrial environments and how employees can keep safe while handling dangerous materials.

What Hazards Exist in an Industrial Environment?

Industrial environments offer the most extreme levels of risk due to the number of hazards that exist in these sectors. There are several different types of hazards that an employee or site visitor can be exposed to while at their industrial workplace. Many of these hazards are heightened when a person must interact with a potentially dangerous item, such as handling materials.

The risk of fires and explosions is a critical hazard that cannot be ignored. This is often caused by flammable liquids and gases, electrical malfunctions, and combustible dust. Fires can cause skin burns and respiratory illness, while explosions can even lead to death, either from the initial impact or the resulting effect of a collapsing building or flying debris.

Exposure to toxic or chemical substances is another important concern to be aware of. These substances can cause an array of serious health issues and other complications. The risk can occur if someone breathes in the substance or physically touches it. Acids are a common hazard, as are cleaning chemicals such as disinfectant. The substances should always be properly handled and stored. If chemicals mix, then this can cause an adverse reactions and lead to an even greater risk. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste yet can kill people if it is not detected in time.

It’s important not to ignore invisible hazards such as fumes, mists and dust. If these are inhaled, it can lead to damage to a person’s respiratory system. Toxic fumes can be emitted from welding, painting and soldering. This is why extraction solutions, such as welding fume extraction, is recommended to eliminate the source.

Industrial tasks usually require sophisticated equipment and advanced machinery. If someone uses a machine incorrectly, then this can lead to a serious accident, either to themselves or a colleague. This is why personnel should receive appropriate and adequate training before they are allowed to use a machine or certain equipment. Likewise, all machinery and equipment should be regularly inspected to ensure that it is up to the minimum standard required. Equipment naturally deteriorates over time and with frequent usage. If it breaks down or performs unexpectedly, it can lead to a serious accident. That’s why it’s important to identify defects as soon as possible and take suitable measures to rectify the issue.

Tips on Safely Handling Materials

So now that we’ve explained the types of industrial hazards that may exist in a workplace, how can employees and employers go about handling materials safely? This should start with a safety data sheet which is provided to every employee. The sheet should clearly state the hazards and risks that the employee may encounter when handling each material. With the risks identified and communicated to employees, effective safety measures should be put in place with regular monitoring to ensure the procedures are being followed.

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as PPE, is a critical part of protecting yourself from hazards. Employers should make sure that adequate PPE is readily available for staff when required. Equipment can include protective clothing, face screens, safety goggles and earplugs. Exposure to hazardous materials can come in the form of skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Protective equipment should limit the risk of these forms of exposure to the minimum possible level.

In the UK, businesses are regulated by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). PUWER is in place to ensure that equipment used for work purposes is done so safely and correctly. The regulations clearly state what employers and their staff should do to keep themselves and others safe from workplace accidents. An extension of PUWER is the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER). LOLER specifically focusses on regulating work equipment that is used for lifting purposes. For example, cranes, pallet trucks and commercial vehicles with tail lifts are all affected by LOLER. These regulations ensure that lifting equipment is up to the required standard and is used by a competent and trained person. Any lifting equipment that falls in the category should have a LOLER inspection every 6 or 12 months.

Before handling dangerous items, employees should be aware of the materials that they will be handling. A critical element of this is to clearly mark each item with its classification, including acids, fragile goods, and flammable liquids. These symbols should assist the worker in how they adapt to handling the item. Precaution should always be maintained, and the worker should know what not to do handling the specific materials. Make sure that hands are thoroughly washed and sanitised after handling hazardous items.

Finally, hazardous materials should always be stored in a suitable place after they have been handled. You should consider whether the storage container is suitable and what temperature is best. Make sure that you avoid mixing incompatible materials with one another, otherwise an adverse chemical reaction can occur. If certain behaviour is prohibited, such as not smoking in the area, then employees should be informed and warning signs should be installed.

P. Airey Tail Lifts & Auto Extract Solutions