Working with toxic substances

Anyone working with toxic substances must undergo a comprehensive induction to the potential dangers of their work and the repercussions and risks of related unwise behaviour at the start of their employment or contract. However, it is always wise to reacquaint yourself with the things you learned during your induction, whichever stage you may now be at in your career. Here is a reminder of some of the key things to remember about working with chemicals, pollutants and hazardous substances in a warehouse or distribution setting.

Remember your training
Always follow established procedures and guidelines, checking with colleagues or management if you are unclear about anything. Have confidence in your training and perform your duties as you have been taught. Wear the required personal protective equipment and clothing, inspecting it carefully each time you put it on for tears and other damage.

Plan ahead
Caution and careful planning could save your life, prevent an adverse reaction or prevent a nasty injury, so make sure you plan ahead and work out what you need to do and how it should be done before embarking upon a job involving a hazardous substance. Make sure everything is carefully labelled and that any warning or information labels or signs that have faded or become damaged are replaced and updated straight away. Read all associated data sheets to make sure you are clear about any precautions that should be taken when handling or working with a particular substance.

Look after yourself
Use materials for their intended use only. Wash your hands every time you handle hazardous liquids and never eat or drink at the same time as handling them. If your hands are contaminated, do not handle contact lenses or use cosmetics. Wear your assigned protective clothing, gloves, goggles etc. and report any injuries, illnesses or adverse physical reactions as soon as they occur so you can access medical help as quickly as possible. Make sure you come to work rested, hydrated and well-fed to optimise your energy levels.

Know your surroundings
Always store toxic substances in the appropriate container and deal with leaks and spillages immediately. Keep the work area clean and free from obstacles that could cause you or fellow workers or visitors to trip or fall. Store chemicals in areas that are properly ventilated, dry and cool. Clean surfaces at least once every shift to minimise the risk of contamination. Learn about what to do in an emergency and schedule regular drills and training to cover any gaps in knowledge that arise from them. Know where your emergency exits are in the event of an evacuation.

Arrange a callback