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
  • Kfc76
    Re: Employer Has Changed My Shifts: What Are My Rights?
    I have been nightshift for over 4 years constant how much notice does my employer need to give if…
    4 December 2020
  • Stevieg
    Re: Violence at Work
    Hi I was confronted and threatened by my boss today I was working on the line as usual and I confronted my boss over line speed... we are ment to…
    2 December 2020
  • Eveline
    Re: Sickness: Your Rights
    I have been off sick for close to 8 months with long covid. On my phased return back to work I was told my hours and duties were given to…
    30 November 2020
  • Mely
    Re: Can my Employer Fire Me?
    I'm working since 2011 with a small hotel from London, recently since I'm on the furlough my boss tell me I have to work 2 days per…
    30 November 2020
  • Vik
    Re: Personal Safety For Lone Workers
    I work sleeping nights in an assisted living complex, 8 hours in your room. However, i have just been diagnosed with sleep…
    28 November 2020
  • Sue
    Re: Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone
    I was left on site of work on my own with no one from the company that I work for to help if I need it was not allow…
    26 November 2020
  • Rachid
    Re: Working At Night
    My job forced me to do night shifts when I explained to them that I had twice surgery on my goitre thyroid gland function and my blood test was…
    26 November 2020
  • Besto
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    Hello, my agency booking my Start time. They send me 9pm oclock i need to come on the next day 6 oclock in…
    25 November 2020
  • Beckbo
    Re: Sickness: Your Rights
    I’m in a temp job now for 5 weeks hoping to be kept. I’m having my first sick day due to earache and headache, can this affect me being…
    24 November 2020
  • Geordie
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    I have been working 12.00 till 22.00 for over a year now Monday to Thursday & now they want me to work 14.15…
    24 November 2020