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Safety Focused Newsletter: November 2021

Handling Chemical Spills, Leaks, and Explosions

Storing or handling chemicals in the workplace puts all employees at risk. Workers like you could experience serious injuries (or even fatalities) in the event of a chemical spill, leak, or explosion on the job. With this in mind, it’s crucial to take steps to minimize chemical exposures in the workplace and understand how to safely respond if a chemical incident does occur.   

Prevention Practices

The main priority when working with chemicals is to follow all necessary precautions to help prevent a spill, leak, or explosion from taking place. You can contribute to that goal by:

  • Having a clear understanding of the chemicals you’re working with, including any hazards
  • Referring to a chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or consulting your supervisor if you’re unsure of the chemical’s specific hazards and protective measures
  • Upholding all workplace policies and procedures related to chemical safety
  • Making sure all chemicals are properly labeled and safely stored in their respective containers

Responding to a Chemical Incident

If a chemical spill, leak, or explosion happens in the workplace, utilize these steps:

  • Notify your supervisor and any other employees in the area immediately.
  • Identify the chemical(s) involved and refer to their associated SDSs to determine whether the incident is hazardous in nature. If the incident is considered hazardous or causes a fire or explosion, be sure to:
  • Activate on-site emergency alarms and call 911.
  • Instruct others to clear the area and follow all workplace evacuation protocols.
  • Avoid engaging in chemical cleanup procedures unless you are properly trained to do so.

If you have any further questions about chemical safety on the job, contact your supervisor.

Staying Safe During Flu Season

In addition to protecting yourself against COVID-19, it’s also critical to take precautions to avoid other illnesses—especially during flu season. While viruses can circulate year-round, flu activity tends to surge in the fall and winter months. During this time, there are several measures that you can implement to keep both yourself and others safe and healthy at work. Consider these best practices from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration amid flu season:

  • Stay home if you feel sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that individuals who have fevers or respiratory symptoms stay home until their conditions improve. Those who experience a fever should hold off on returning to work for another 24 hours after their fever ends (100 degrees Fahrenheit or lower) without the use of medication. Yet, keep in mind that not everyone who has the flu will get a fever. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, body aches, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, or vomiting.
  • Wash your hands often. When using soap and water, rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds before rinsing them with water and drying them completely. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Tissues should go into a "no-touch" wastebasket after you use them. Additionally, be sure to wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Refrain from touching your face.
  • Keep frequently touched surfaces clean. Commonly used surfaces—such as counters, door handles, phones, computer keyboards, and touchpads—should be cleaned between each use.
  • Limit shared equipment, or clean equipment before others use it. Avoid using a co-worker's phone, desk, office, computer, or other equipment unless it’s cleaned with a disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Follow workplace protocols. Make sure you understand specific workplace policies and procedures regarding how to stay healthy on the job during flu season.
  • Discuss alternate work arrangements. If you’re concerned about your health, speak to your supervisor about alternate work arrangements—such as remote work or staggered shifts—to protect yourself or co-workers who are considered high risk for seasonal flu (e.g., older workers, pregnant women, and employees with asthma).

Consult your supervisor for more information on flu prevention measures in the workplace.

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