Working with chemicals demands a meticulous understanding of safety protocols and guidelines. This comprehensive guide serves to equip you with the knowledge and best practices related to chemical handling, safety, and storage, as well as the management of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
Some of the most important regulations related to the handling of chemicals include the following:
Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS): An internationally agreed-upon system created by the United Nations, its primary objective is to standardise the classification and labelling of chemicals to ensure their properly classified and labelled, providing crucial information about their hazards and appropriate handling procedures. The GHS system provides criteria for the classification of chemicals based on their health, environmental, and physical hazards. It also specifies standardised hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets (SDS), to convey the necessary information about the hazards associated with chemicals.
Compliance with GHS aids in the implementation of effective risk management strategies and helps prevent accidents, injuries, and health risks associated with the mishandling of chemicals by promoting the safe use, handling, and disposal of chemicals.
The main nine hazard pictograms under the GHS system are as follows:
- Explosive: This pictogram is used to indicate the presence of explosive materials that can cause significant damage if not handled properly.
- Flammable: It signifies the presence of substances or mixtures that are highly flammable, posing a risk of fire or explosion.
- Oxidizing: This pictogram is used for substances and mixtures that can cause or contribute to the combustion of other materials.
- Corrosive: It indicates substances that can cause damage to living tissues upon contact or damage to materials through chemical action.
- Gases Under Pressure: This pictogram is used for compressed, liquefied, or dissolved gases that are stored under pressure and can cause explosions if mishandled.
- Health Hazard: This symbol is used for chemicals that can cause acute or chronic health effects, such as respiratory or skin sensitisation, carcinogenicity, or reproductive toxicity.
- Toxic: It signifies substances and mixtures that, if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin in relatively small amounts, can cause health damage or even be fatal.
- Environmental Hazard: This symbol is used to indicate chemicals that can cause damage to the aquatic environment or the ozone layer.
- Skull and Crossbones: This pictogram is used for chemicals that are acutely toxic and can cause severe health effects or even death if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
Different categories of chemicals should be stored according to their specific properties and hazards to minimise the risk of accidents and ensure the safety of personnel and the environment. Here are some general guidelines for storing different chemical categories:
- Flammable Liquids and Solids: Store in cool, well-ventilated areas away from heat sources and direct sunlight. Keep away from oxidizing agents and strong acids. Use approved flammable storage cabinets or rooms with appropriate ventilation and fire suppression systems.
- Corrosive Chemicals: Store in dedicated corrosive-resistant cabinets or containers made of materials compatible with the specific corrosive substance. Keep away from reactive substances and ensure proper ventilation to prevent the build-up of corrosive vapours.
- Oxidizing Agents: Store in separate, dedicated areas away from flammable materials, reducing agents, and organic materials. Avoid storing near heat sources or direct sunlight. Use appropriate storage containers and ensure proper ventilation to prevent the build-up of potentially reactive vapours.
- Toxic Substances: Store in secure, well-ventilated areas away from other chemicals, food, and personal protective equipment. Keep toxic substances in locked cabinets or restricted-access areas to prevent unauthorised access.
- Compressed Gases: Store in well-ventilated, dry areas away from heat sources, direct sunlight, and combustible materials. Secure cylinders in an upright position and use appropriate restraints to prevent tipping or damage. Use dedicated storage areas or cages for different gas types and label them accordingly.
- Water-Reactive Chemicals: Store in dedicated areas away from water sources and moisture. Use appropriate storage containers, such as tightly sealed, water-resistant containers, to prevent reactions with moisture in the air.
- Peroxide-Forming Chemicals: Store in cool, dark areas, away from heat, light, and sources of ignition. Use appropriate inhibitors or stabilisers and monitor the age of the chemicals to prevent the build-up of unstable peroxides.
- Explosive Materials: Store in secure, specialized explosive storage areas or containers designed to withstand potential detonation. Follow specific regulations and guidelines for the storage of explosive materials and ensure strict access control to prevent unauthorised handling.
Always consult specific safety data sheets (SDS) and follow manufacturer recommendations for the appropriate storage of each chemical category. However, some general guidelines for chemical storage include:
- Segregation: Store chemicals based on their compatibility, separating incompatible substances to prevent reactions or hazards. Segregate acids from bases, oxidizers from flammable materials, and organic from inorganic chemicals.
- Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation in storage areas to minimise the build-up of vapours, fumes, or gases that could pose health risks or potential fire or explosion hazards.
- Temperature Control: Store chemicals at appropriate temperatures to prevent degradation or hazardous reactions. Some chemicals may require specific temperature ranges for stability.
- Secure Containers: Use appropriate, tightly sealed, and labelled containers for storing chemicals. Ensure that containers are not damaged and are compatible with the specific chemical being stored.
- Shelving and Storage Units: Use stable and sturdy shelving units or storage cabinets specifically designed for chemical storage. These units should be able to contain spills and be resistant to the chemicals being stored.
- Emergency Equipment: Keep emergency equipment, such as spill kits, fire extinguishers, and personal protective equipment, easily accessible in the storage area.
- Labelling: Clearly label all containers with the chemical name, hazard warnings, and any necessary precautionary information to ensure safe handling and storage.
- Access Control: Restrict access to chemical storage areas to authorised personnel only. Limit access to those who have received appropriate training in handling and managing hazardous materials.
- Inventory Management: Maintain an updated inventory of all chemicals stored, including their quantities and locations. This helps in tracking usage, preventing overstocking, and minimising the risk of expired or deteriorated chemicals.
- Compliance with Regulations: Adhere to all relevant local, national, and international regulations governing the storage of chemicals to ensure legal compliance and the safety of workers and the environment.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations: These regulations are crucial for managing the risks associated with hazardous substances in the workplace, including the handling of chemicals. COSHH requires employers to assess and control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent or minimise health risks to employees. The following steps outline the process of implementing COSSH:
- Risk Assessment: Conduct a thorough assessment of the potential risks associated with the use and handling of hazardous substances in the laboratory. Identify the specific chemicals used, their potential health effects, and the extent of exposure risks.
- Control Measures and Approach: Implement appropriate control measures to minimise or eliminate exposure to hazardous substances. This may include engineering controls such as ventilation systems, enclosure of processes, or the use of containment systems. Administrative controls, such as safe work practices and training, should also be put in place.
- Training and Information: Provide comprehensive training and information to all employees who handle or come into contact with hazardous substances. Ensure that employees understand the risks associated with the chemicals they work with, as well as the necessary precautions and control measures to minimize exposure.
- Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Provide suitable personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, lab coats, and respirators, as required by the specific hazards identified in the risk assessment. Train employees on the proper use, maintenance, and disposal of PPE.
- Emergency Planning: Develop and implement emergency plans and procedures in case of chemical spills, leaks, or exposure incidents. Ensure that employees are trained in emergency response procedures and that appropriate safety equipment, such as spill kits and eyewash stations, is readily available.
- Monitoring and Health Surveillance: Establish a system for monitoring and surveillance to ensure that control measures are effective in minimising exposure to hazardous substances. Conduct regular health checks and medical surveillance for employees who are at risk of exposure to ensure early detection of any adverse health effects.
- Review and Update: Regularly review and update risk assessments, control measures, and procedures to reflect any changes in the use of hazardous substances or advancements in safety technology. Stay informed about any new regulations or best practices related to chemical handling and safety.
- Record Keeping: Maintain thorough records of risk assessments, control measures, training, and any incidents or near-misses related to the handling of hazardous substances. These records should be readily accessible for review and inspection
Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005: The Environmental Protection Act 1990 establishes a clear responsibility for individuals and organisations handling chemical waste, including those who produce it. It also places an obligation on waste disposers to ensure that the waste does not pose any harm to future handlers. The Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 serve as the implementation of this legislation in England and Wales. These regulations dictate that hazardous wastes must be treated differently from domestic and household wastes, leading to specific requirements for their disposal. As a result, it is crucial to follow the outlined guidelines to ensure the safe and compliant handling and disposal of both hazardous and non-hazardous chemical waste. This is essential for the protection of human health and the environment, in line with the Environmental Protection Act’s duty of care provision.
Disposal of Hazardous Chemical Waste
- Identify and categorise the hazardous waste based on its specific properties and potential risks. Classify it according to local, national, and international regulations.
- Store hazardous waste in appropriate containers that are compatible with the waste material and capable of preventing leaks or spills.
- Clearly label all containers with the appropriate hazard warnings and disposal instructions.
- Consult with registered waste management facilities or hazardous waste disposal companies for the proper collection, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste.
- Follow all relevant regulations and guidelines for the transportation of hazardous waste to ensure compliance and prevent any adverse effects on the environment and human health.
Disposal of Non-Hazardous Chemical Waste
- Segregate non-hazardous waste from hazardous waste to prevent contamination and ensure proper disposal.
- Consider recycling options for non-hazardous chemical waste where feasible and environmentally beneficial.
- Utilise waste management facilities that specialize in the disposal and treatment of non-hazardous waste.
- Comply with local waste disposal regulations and guidelines for the proper handling, storage, and transportation of non-hazardous chemical waste.
- Implement waste reduction strategies and consider environmentally friendly alternatives to minimise the generation of non-hazardous chemical waste.
Check if your waste is hazardous here.
Here at VITTA, we employ a specialist team of chemists to pack and label hazardous chemicals ready for removal. Our trained ADR drivers will then transport to a registered waste station. Learn more here.
By meticulously adhering to global standards, local regulations, and best practices, you contribute significantly to the overall well-being and safety of everyone within the laboratory setting. Remain vigilant, continuously update your knowledge, and actively participate in training programs to ensure the ongoing refinement of your expertise in chemical handling, safety, and storage, as well as waste management and regulatory compliance.
If you have any questions or would like further information about the handling, management and disposal of chemicals in your school or college, please contact our team via firstname.lastname@example.org