Home > Workplace Safety > Working with Dangerous Substances

Working with Dangerous Substances

By: Ross Wigham - Updated: 3 May 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Dangerous Substances Chemicals Working

Almost all of us will face some sort of dangerous substances at work or during our daily life and it's important that we understand how to deal with the risks.

Although the idea of dangerous substances can conjure up pictures of science laboratories and radioactive waste, the bulk of them are more everyday things like cleaning products, bleach and paint.

The risks can be found everywhere from hair salons and workshops, to factories and offices with workers protected from exposure by a number of European Laws.

Most of the chemicals faced in the workplace aren't harmful at all if they are used properly, although some will need more careful treatment than others.

What Are Dangerous Substances?

A dangerous substance can be anything that could potentially cause you harm, including many everyday products such as glue and paint.

The legal definition covers any liquid, solid, gas, chemical or biological material that could pose a risk to workers' health and safety. There are around 100,000 different substances recognized across Europe, with almost every workplace facing some sort of exposure risk.

Some of the most common substances include:

  • Cleaning products.
  • Glue, paint, varnish and oil.
  • Petrol.
  • Solvents.
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

Some further risks can be created as a result of processes in the workplace - for example welding fumes or Wood Waste can cause serious health problems for staff.

What Are The Risks?

Depending on the type of substance and the type of exposure, the risks faced by workers can vary dramatically. The harm caused by these materials can range from relatively minor skin complaints, all the way to chemicals that cause serious diseases like Cancer.

The conditions that can be caused by exposure to dangerous substances include:

Dealing With Dangerous Substances

The majority of chemicals found in the average workplace will only pose a very minor threat, which can be reduced even further by following some basic safety rules.

As with all health and safety issues you should carry out a risk assessment to see what problems could arise, and how you can minimise the chances of an accident.

A comprehensive risk assessment should include:

  • A look at the substances that could harm workers. You should try to identify all the potential hazards in the workplace.
  • Further information on all the substances in the workplace and the harm they could cause.
  • The levels of exposure that workers face.
  • Any training or instructions that could help reduce risks.
  • A rank of the levels of risk looking at the chance of workers being exposed, and the harm it would cause.
  • Procedures that reduce the risks faced by staff.

If you are worried about working with dangerous substances you should check the procedures and health and safety polices at your workplace.

The main issues for most people will be the safe handling and storage of common substances found in many workplaces. All chemicals or cleaning agents should be clearly marked and stored in a locked area. They should also have the appropriate warning and hazard labels attached.

You should always use the proper equipment and any protective clothing provided, while obeying any safety precautions advised by your employer.

Workers in many sectors are protected by European law which limits exposure to certain chemicals and provides regulations for dealing with them.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Micky - Your Question:
I have COPD and work in a plastics manufactures (Extrusion) our roof fans have not worked for months now and I am feeling the affects of the fumes which you can actually see moving in the roof space.I mentioned this to my Health and Safety officer and he assured me it was being dealt with and they have indeed purchased new fans,this was 2 months ago but still they have not been fitted.Any production problems are dealt with immediately but the fans are on hold.i am now off sick with a chest infection.I am not happy going back into that environment.can I sue? can they sack me?

Our Response:
ASk your doctor to write a note about the work environment and questioning when the fans will be fitted. That might give the employer the extra incentive to get the job done.
SafeWorkers - 5-May-16 @ 12:41 PM
I have COPD and work in a plastics manufactures (Extrusion) our roof fans have not worked for months now and i am feeling the affects of the fumes which you can actually see moving in the roof space.I mentioned this to my Health and Safety officer and he assured me it was being dealt with and they have indeed purchased new fans,this was 2 months ago but still they have not been fitted.Any production problems are dealt with immediately but the fans are on hold..i am now off sick with a chest infection...I am not happy going back into that environment..can i sue? can they sack me?
Micky - 3-May-16 @ 10:36 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Ricky
    Re: Going On Strike
    Hi me & colleagues would like to strike over pay but striking on certain duties we carry out in security. Would we be able to strike not doing…
    17 October 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: Food Safety and the Law
    Patsie - Your Question:What is the law on wearing jewellery for a Barista (no food preparation only coffee making)?
    17 October 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    Kaz - Your Question:I am a permanent member of staff who work shifts over 7 days. we have seasonal contract…
    17 October 2017
  • goodlady
    Re: Safe Working Temperatures
    I work in a care home, the heat is unbearable. There is no air conditioning,I work 12hr shifts, as soon as I walk unto the unit the…
    16 October 2017
  • poppy
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    i have worked in the same job for 14 years -tupe twice- my contracted working hours are 40 my employer is…
    16 October 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: Can my Employer Fire Me?
    Eastlands - Your Question:I work in Transport,have a 37.5 hour weekly contract. Invariably on 2 days a week, I finish my…
    16 October 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: General Workplace Safety
    Bones - Your Question:Evening, I am a contractor employed by a principle contractor under a CDM project. I have received an injury…
    16 October 2017
  • SafeWorkers
    Re: Food Safety and the Law
    Shar - Your Question:Are staff in fast food restaurants allowed to wear shorts?Our Response:As f
    16 October 2017
  • Patsie
    Re: Food Safety and the Law
    What is the law on wearing jewellery for a Barista (no food preparation only coffee making)?
    16 October 2017
  • Kaz
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    I am a permanent member of staff who work shifts over 7 days. we have seasonal contract hours (April…
    16 October 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SafeWorkers website. Please read our Disclaimer.