Chemical assessments in the workplace can be used to:
- Identify the hazards associated with a chemical
- Assess the risks of exposure to a chemical
- Develop and implement appropriate risk management measures
- Monitor and review the effectiveness of risk management measures
Step One: Identify the chemicals to be assessed
The first step in completing a chemical assessment is to identify the chemicals that need to be assessed. This may involve:
- Reviewing workplace inventories
- Identifying chemicals used in products or processes
- Considering chemicals that may be released into the environment
Step Two: Gather information on the chemicals
Once the chemicals to be assessed have been identified, ensure to gather information on their properties and hazards. This information can be found in a variety of sources, including:
- Safety data sheets (SDSs)
- Chemical databases
- Scientific literature
The information gathered should include:
- The chemical’s identity and physical properties
- The chemical’s hazards (e.g., toxicity, flammability, corrosivity)
- Routes of exposure (e.g., inhalation, dermal, ingestion)
- Effects of exposure (e.g., acute and chronic health effects, environmental effects)
Step Three: Assess the risks of exposure
Once information on the chemicals’ properties and hazards has been gathered, ensure you assess the risks of exposure. This involves considering:
- The amount and frequency of exposure
- The routes of exposure
- The characteristics of the exposed population (e.g., age, health status)
- The effectiveness of any existing risk management measures
Step Four: Develop and implement risk management measures
If the risk assessment identifies significant risks of exposure to a chemical, then appropriate risk management measures should be developed and implemented. These measures may include:
- Engineering controls (e.g., ventilation, isolation)
- Administrative controls (e.g., safe work practices, training)
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Step Five: Monitor and review the effectiveness of risk management measures
Once risk management measures have been implemented, it is important to monitor and review their effectiveness on a regular basis. This should involve:
- Monitoring exposure levels
- Conducting regular inspections of workplaces and equipment
- Reviewing incident reports
Tips for completing a chemical assessment
- Use a systematic approach. This will ensure that all relevant factors are considered, and that the assessment is comprehensive.
- Document the assessment process and findings. This will help to communicate the results of the assessment to others and to track the effectiveness of risk management measures over time.
- Consult with experts if necessary. If you are unsure about any aspect of the assessment process, seek advice from a qualified professional.
Example of a chemical assessment
Hazards: Toluene is a flammable liquid that can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Exposure to high levels of toluene can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Long-term exposure to toluene can damage the central nervous system and liver.
Routes of exposure: Toluene can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested.
Exposed population: Workers in the workplace who are exposed to toluene include:
- Automotive mechanics
- Workers in the rubber and plastics industry
Existing risk management measures: The workplace has the following risk management measures in place to protect workers from exposure to toluene:
- Engineering controls: There is a local exhaust ventilation system in place to remove toluene fumes from the air.
- Administrative controls: Workers are trained on how to safely use toluene and on the importance of using PPE.
- PPE: Workers are required to wear respirators, gloves, and safety glasses when working with toluene.
Risk assessment: The risk assessment has determined that the risk of exposure to toluene in the workplace is low, provided that all risk management measures are in place and followed.
Recommendations: The risk assessment recommended the following:
- Continue to monitor exposure levels to toluene.
- Conduct regular inspections of the ventilation system and PPE to ensure that they are in good working order.
- Provide refresher training to employees on the safe use of toluene.
The iProtectU health and safety software provides:
- An inspection and Audit App which allows for safety inspection of the workplace and associated report
- eLearning on a range of EHS topics including chemical safety
- Scheduling functionality for managers to send eLearning, risk assessments and documents out to all staff via the software with tracks completion and compliance
- Chemical assessment templates
- Management system to document control the policy on chemical substances
- Method Statement module for the creation of work activity working instructions
- Legal register that provides legislation guidance on chemical safety
- Incident investigation module that tracks incidents involving substances both with an app and via desktop
- Hazard observation app where staff can report and record any concerns regarding chemical substances to the organisation
- Asset management App ensuring assets are recorded in the software