Any industrial operation working with chemicals needs to be aware of their
potential reactivity—which cannot be mixed, which cannot be heated,
which cannot be cooled—in order to maintain a safe working environment.
Because mismanaging reactive chemicals can lead to the release of toxic
chemicals, fires or explosions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
has joined forces with the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) to
create a guide to the safe management of these potentially dangerous substances.
While the complete safety management plan can be found in the book
Essential Practices for Managing Chemical Reactivity Hazards, we share some of the key safety precautions in this article.
1. Train Staff on Chemical Reactivity Hazards
Even if a company invests in state of the art equipment and safety systems
to manage reactive chemicals, the environment cannot be secure unless
staff is properly trained to understand potential hazards, identify warning
signs of equipment malfunction or other dangers, and appropriately react
to contain or minimize hazards. Reactivity hazard information should be
included in material safety data sheets (MSDS) and should be distributed
to all personnel, even independent contractors. Hazard information should
not only include details on the steps necessary to safely handle and manage
chemicals, it should also detail the consequences of deviating from appropriate
2. Identify Process Controls and Risk Management Operations
If a company will be storing, handling or processing reactive chemicals
on a regular basis, appropriate receiving and transferring practices need
to be in place. From the moment chemicals are delivered, safety controls
need to begin. Procedures must be in place to sample chemicals, ensuring
that they are the correct materials. Connection points along pipes need
to be clearly marked so that chemicals flow in the correct direction and
don't accidentally co-mingle. Having clearly written instructions
to ensure these processes occur correctly will do much to promote safe
handling of hazardous materials.
3. Conduct a Process Hazard Analysis(PHA)
There are several different ways to assess the hazards associated with
handling processes that involve one or more reactive chemicals. The most
common rely on a series of check-lists designed to identify risks. The
key factor in conducting a reliable PHA is that it is conducted by a team
including at least one employee who has experience and knowledge related
to the process being evaluated.
4. Consider Abnormal Situations
The old saying "hope for the best, prepare for the worst," is
extremely relevant when working with reactive chemicals. In order to be
truly prepared for a possible disaster, every potential scenario that
could result in the accidental release, ignition or explosion of chemicals
should be considered and documented. Each eventuality should also have
a documented remedial action plan.
5. Conduct Frequent Audits
Even if a company has employed the highest standards of safety, and appropriately
trained all staff members in management practices, change is a constant
in any work environment. New employees are hired, chemical safety information
is updated—all of these changes may have occurred since handling
operations were first implemented. For that reason, Safety, Health and
Environmental (SHE) audits should be conducted at regular intervals. Team
members conducting the audits should be trained to identify the different
elements of chemical management systems and determine that each part is
functioning correctly. SHE audits should also determine whether or not
all staff members have been trained to safely handle reactive chemicals.
If you have been injured or your property has been contaminated as a result
of a chemical release, you may be entitled to compensation. At Arnold
& Itkin, our
industrial injury attorneys have recovered more than $1 billion on behalf of our clients, and we would
love the opportunity to advocate on your behalf. We can help you explore
all of your options as you pursue a settlement for your injuries.
Contact an industrial injury lawyer from our office today and receive a free consultation regarding your case.