Hazardous chemicals are substances and mixtures that can be a health hazard if not handled or stored correctly.
Hazardous substances include:
- hydraulic fluid
- paint removers
- battery acid
- used oils
- surface preparation products
- rust converters and removers, and
Dusts primarily arise from cutting, grinding and sanding. They have a direct route of exposure to the lung and intestinal tract, and can be an irritant to eyes and the skin. Asbestos and silica dust may also be an issue.
Vehicle emissions, particularly diesel and carbon monoxide, are a serious problem in automotive workshops, as are welding and paint fumes.
Short-term (acute) health effects from hazardous substances and chemicals may include contact dermatitis, burns to the skin and eyes, vomiting and diarrhoea, irritation to the nose/lungs/throat, headache and occupational asthma.
Long-term (chronic) effects include lung cancer, chronic dermatitis, chronic obstructive airway disease, and damage to the reproductive system, kidneys and liver.
Fire and explosion
The use and storage of flammable and oxidising substances (e.g. gases, solvents, combustible dusts used during powder coating, paints) can create serious fire or explosion hazards when they come into contact with potential ignition sources such as:
- welding or cutting torches
- matches, cigarettes and lighters
- sparks and arcs generated by the discharge of static electricity from poorly earthed equipment and portable electric tools, power points, radios and mobile phones
- burner fames
- frictional sparks
- broken electric light globes that expose the hot filament
- hot surfaces (e.g. operating internal combustion engines, heated wires, glowing metals, overheated bearings)
- products that can be self-heating or result in spontaneous combustion
- catalytic reactions
- chemical reactions (e.g. mixing or decanting hazardous chemicals can generate heat or static electricity).
You must ensure that workers are not exposed to airborne contaminants above workplace exposure standards.
The list of exposure standards is contained within the publication Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants (also available within the Hazardous Substances Information System database).
Health monitoring by a registered medical practitioner experienced in health monitoring must be conducted where there is a significant risk of workers developing an occupational disease due to exposure to hazardous substances (e.g. Isocyanates, asbestos, silica).