The most common result of exposure to chemicals is skin irritation (dermatitis). Other results include occupational asthma, chemical poisoning, chemical burns from corrosives and long-term diseases such as cancer.
Health effects may be:
- acute, resulting from a short-term (usually high) exposure
- chronic, resulting from long-term (often low level) exposure over a period of time. Chronic effects may not occur for many years-they are hard to predict in advance and when they do occur it may be hard to identify what caused them.
The Publications section of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission website contains a great deal of information under headings such as: National Standards, Codes of Practice, Technical Reports, Guides and Guidance Material, Education and Training and Managing Workplace Hazards Factsheets. This last section includes a factsheet on Hazardous substances.
What kinds of chemical hazards exist in your workplace?
What kinds of injuries are workers most likely to sustain?
In thinking about these questions you are beginning the process of identifying chemical hazards and analysing potential risks in your own workplace.