Solvents are common in many workplaces, but that doesn't mean workers don't need to be careful. Like other chemicals, solvents can be hazardous if stored or handled improperly.
When employees work with solvents, they have to be trained to follow basic safety procedures to prevent accidents and illness, including these six key work practices:
You can protect employees even more by substituting less hazardous solvents whenever possible to minimize the risk of harmful exposures.
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Some solvents, like acetone, are very flammable. Flammable solvents tend to evaporate at lower temperatures and give off more vapors, which are easily ignited, resulting in fire.
There are many potential sources of ignition for solvents. For example:
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Remember, too, that solvent fires may not only be hazardous because of the flames, but also because when some solvents burn, they produce a hazardous by-product that can be highly toxic.
Engineering controls such as local exhaust and general area ventilation can help keep solvent vapors at safe levels. Closed processes may be required in some work situations. And when levels can't be adequately controlled, respiratory protection is required.
Tomorrow, we'll review safety and health risks associated with solvent vapors—critical information to include in solvent safety training.
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