Be Safe Around Chemicals

Many workplaces need to use dangerous chemicals, which have the potential to harm your health. Wherever you work, don’t be complacent around hazardous substances.

Chemicals are all around us, but they are not all dangerous. The food we eat, the plants we grow, the air we breathe, and the homes we live in are all made of various chemicals.

Hazardous chemicals are those that can have harmful effects on people. The health effects depend on the type of chemical and the level of exposure, and also how you were exposed to it. Chemicals can be inhaled, splashed onto the skin or eyes, or swallowed, and can cause poisoning; nausea and vomiting; headache; skin rashes; chemical burns; lung, kidney or liver problems; nervous system disorders; and birth defects.

Hazardous chemicals can be in the form of a liquid, powder, solid or gas. Common hazardous chemicals include disinfectants, glues, acids, paints, pesticides, solvents, heavy metals (such as lead), and petroleum products.

Reducing your exposure

  • First, make sure you know what chemicals are hazardous in your workplace. Any product in your workplace that has the potential to cause harm is required by law to have a warning label and Safety Data Sheet provided.
  • Where possible, perform the task without using any hazardous chemicals, or substitute the substance with a less hazardous alternative. You could use a detergent in place of a chlorinated solvent for cleaning, for example.
  • Make sure you wear any personal protection equipment supplied, such as respirators, gloves and goggles.
  • Ensure you attend training in the safe handling of any hazardous chemicals in your workplace.

Exposure to hazardous chemicals

If you suspect you’ve been exposed to a hazardous substance:

  • If it’s an emergency, dial emergency services for an ambulance.
  • Otherwise, see your doctor immediately for treatment, information and referral.
  • Notify your employer.
  • Try not to handle the substance again.