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Chemical Safety

Today’s workplace uses thousands of chemicals, many of which are hazardous. The resources in this section will help guide you in the safe and legal identification, storage, transport, and use of these chemicals, and in making sure that your employees right to know how to be safe around such substances is provided, as required by law.

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Build Better Breathing Air into Your Workplace

Yesterday, we looked at substances that can cause or aggravate asthma that are often found in the work environment—both where they are being manufactured and also at the point of use. We also identified some industries in which exposure to asthmagens—asthma-causing chemicals—might be of greatest concern. Today, we’ll look at strategies employers can use to reduce asthma triggers in the built environment.

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Are Your Workers Exposed to Asthma Triggers at Work?

Every day in America, 30,000 people suffer an asthma attack. Five thousand of them go to the emergency room, 1,000 are admitted to the hospital—and 11 will die. Although those numbers include asthma sufferers of all ages—children are especially susceptible to asthma-causing chemicals—a significant number are workers. As many as 15 percent of adults develop asthma because of workplace exposures, according to the American Thoracic Society. Many more who develop asthma outside the workplace find their condition worsened by workplace exposures.

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A Label for All Seasons … and All Situations

In yesterday’s article, we looked at the labeling requirements for solid materials, specifically, when a solid material is an “article” that does not require labeling and when it is a potentially hazardous chemical that must be labeled. Today, we’ll look at other unusual labeling situations that may arise and how to handle them.

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Put Your Stamp on These Unusual Labeling Situations

When we think of chemical labeling, we tend to think of “ordinary” situations—gallon jars of sulfuric acid sporting OSHA’s new pictograms, or bags of insulation with their hazard labels prominently displayed. But hazardous chemicals don’t always come in what we think of as “ordinary” containers, nor do they stay there—they are, after all, intended for use. How should you address labeling under these unusual circumstances?

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Methylene Chloride: Protecting Exposed Workers

Yesterday we looked at the hazards of methylene chloride, a common paint-stripping chemical with many industrial uses—and many hazards, including cancer. Today, let’s talk about how to protect workers from exposure to this narcotic, corrosive, carcinogenic chemical.

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Stripping Away the Hazards of Methylene Chloride

Methylene chloride (also called dichloromethane) is a solvent with many uses, including paint stripping, polyurethane foam manufacturing, and cleaning and degreasing. You might not think that a chemical you can buy at your local home improvement store for use at home would be all that dangerous, but don’t be fooled. Methylene chloride is hazardous enough that it is covered by one of OSHA’s substance-specific standards, 29 CFR 1910.1052.

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Your HAZWOPER Chain of Command Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link

Yesterday, we looked at the six essential elements of a HAZWOPER site analysis. Today, we’ll look at the requirements for site management and site control.

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Six Essential Components of HAZWOPER Site Analysis

If you’re in charge of a HAZWOPER site, there are site-related duties and responsibilities you need to be aware of. These include site characterization and analysis, establishing a chain of command, and site control.

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Gas Detection: Hydrogen Sulfide Hazards and Releases

Hydrogen sulfide, or sour gas, is a flammable, colorless gas that is toxic at extremely low concentrations. It is heavier than air, and may accumulate in low-lying areas. It smells like “rotten eggs” at low concentrations and causes workers to quickly lose their sense of smell.

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Gas Detection: Special Precautions for Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide gas is very corrosive and therefore extremely hazardous. You need to take special precautions when choosing equipment and establishing safe work procedures.

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