5 Common Accidents at Chemical Warehouses
Any business is bound to face workplace hazards. Even sedate office buildings can pose risks for workers, especially if workers engage in risky behavior. Ignoring safety signs for wet floors could lead to slips, while standing on chairs to reach items on high shelves might be the cause of falls.
When you own and operate a warehouse where hazardous chemical substances are manufactured and/or stored, the safety risks increase. Chemical warehousing is a notoriously dangerous business if you don't have proper safety procedures in place.
OSHA will, of course, provide you with rules and regulations pertaining to your business, as well as offer walk-throughs to ensure that your operation is up to snuff. Knowing about accidents common to chemical warehouses can help you to avoid harm to your operation and your employees.
If you want the best opportunity to avoid some of the consequences that could result from chemical warehousing accidents, here are possible occurrences that you should be aware of.
1. Leakage and Spills
Whether you're commonly loading or unloading chemicals, leakage and spills are a constant threat. In some cases, containers may even suffer leaks after they have been sealed.
Such accidents could be harmful in a number of ways. For starters, they may cause damage to your facilities. It is for this reason that most storage areas include sumps to catch overflow.
The more pressing concern may be exposure to hazardous substances. Breathing chemical fumes or suffering contact to skin could pose health risks for employees. Installing chemical showers and eyewash stations can help in such instances.
The best defense here is a good offense, so enact safety measures to avoid chemical spills and leaks if at all possible. Then make sure employees are aware of their surroundings, that they wear proper safety gear, and that they are trained to observe applicable safety procedures and react appropriately should spills or leaks occur.
2. Falling Objects
Chemical warehousing often requires containers to be stacked. Even with appropriate shelving for your containers, however, it is possible that objects could fall, potentially causing damage to facilities or harm to employees.
Safety straps are always an option, but again, it's a good idea to ensure that employees make a habit of being aware of their surroundings and that proper safety procedures are followed to the letter.
3. Forklift Accidents
Any warehouse operation is bound to have a lot of product moving around, whether it's coming in or going out (or both). With chemical warehousing, not only is the product potentially hazardous in and of itself, but the machines that move it from place to place could also pose a risk.
For this reason, you may want to create clearly delineated roadways, of a sort, for forklifts to traverse. Like city streets, these throughways should help to expedite workflow while keeping everyone safe from collisions or other accidents related to the transport of materials.
4. Slip and Fall Accidents
Slips and falls are common to every industry, not just chemical warehousing. These accidents tend to be the most widely seen accident and injury scenario across the board.
In a chemical warehouse, the concern naturally centers on chemical spillage since wet spots on the floor make slips much more probable. However, slips and falls can also be entirely unrelated to wetness, or they could occur after a floor is mopped.
What can you do to prevent such hazards? Waiting to mop until the fewest workers are in the warehouse is a good start, as is posting appropriate signage to warn of wet floors. The same signage can be used in cases of chemical spills to keep employees out of contaminated areas.
As for other causes of slips and falls, providing training materials that highlight dangerous behavior could help to curb such occurrences.
With proper safety and handling procedures in place, your chemical warehousing operation shouldn't face undue risk of fires. That said, should a fire break out, the product in your warehouse could prove extremely hazardous, depending on the types of chemicals you manufacture and/or store.
You'll have to check with OSHA and with your state to make sure you're in compliance with all regulations related to fire safety in a workplace or industrial setting. Regardless, the presence of appropriate fire extinguishers and sprinklers are almost certainly a must.