Conducting a Hazardous Chemicals Risk Assessment

In this video blog, I’m going to talk today about conducting a hazardous chemical risk assessment.

You will have been through the initial process of determining whether or not a chemical is a hazardous chemical by looking at your safety data sheets or the labels on the container of the hazardous chemical. 

From that, you need to determine whether or not and how you are going to deal with it in the workplace and you need to do a risk assessment. 


The risk assessment will be relevant to the risk associated with that substance you are using in the workplace. The detail, and the recording will be relevant to that risk. You might do a basic risk assessment or you may do a detailed risk assessment.


Who is going to do the assessment?

Can you do it internally?  Does the person have the expertise to do that risk assessment?

In many cases it can be done internally, it can be done by reading the safety data sheet and completing a risk assessment form, a sample risk assessment is available with this video which you can use. 

There will be however, times when you will have to get professional help. You may need to go to an occupational hygienist who will come in and take measurements, evaluate what the exposure is to your workers and give you some advice and guidance on how you are going to manage that particular substance or chemical.

I am talking today about what you would do. The professional, the occupational hygienist would follow the same process, and give your report and a risk assessment as part of the reporting procedure.


1. Review the Information

The first thing we need to do is review the information - have we got a safety data sheet on that particular substance? 

We may need to look at other information such as has there been any incidents relevant to this particular substance, any exposure or any information from your industry group in relation to this substance. 

So, you do some review of information about the hazardous chemical.


2. Consult with people who are using the substance

We can then also consult and discuss with the people who might be using the substance - that might be your contractors, or workers, it may be that you need to talk to the health and safety represnetaives about it. 

Whoever it is that you need to talk to - you need to consult through the process of doing this risk assessment.

Actually, reviewing the information, consulting and assessing the risk will all be part of that same process. 


3. Look at how and where the substance is being used

In assessing the risk, as I said we’ve got to determine how and where it is going to be used.


Is it going to be sprayed? Is it going to be put on with a paint brush? Is it going to produce gasses when it’s drying? How are you actually going to use the substance in the workplace? 


Where is it to be used? Is it going to be used internally? Is it going to be used externally? Is it going to be used in an environment where other people might be exposed for example is it going to be used in a school environment where school children might be exposed to the substance? So, we need to determine where it is going to be used. 

We not only need to look at what the exposure is from our own workers point of view but we also need to look at exposure for other people, such as using a hazardous chemical as I said, in a school, in a hospital, in a nursing home, something of that nature.


4. Consider the equipment involved 

What equipment is involved? As I said, is it going to be sprayed? Is it going to be put on with rollers?  What type of equipment is going to be involved.  What is the exposure potential? 

Are you going to be using it in very small amounts in a well-ventilated area? then the exposure to the workers may be minimal. 

However, if you are going to be using it in fairly large quantities in a very confined space area then the risk level may increase depending on the substance.

What control measures are you going to put into place?  Do we need ventilation systems in place?  Do we need to control and close the substance we are using?

Do we need any monitoring? Do we need any health monitoring?  Do we need to take some readings as to what our workers are going to be exposed to in the workplace?

All of those things will be taken care of when you do your risk assessment and as I said there is a sample risk assessment attached to this particular whiteboard session.


5. Record the findings and follow instructions

Once we have done the risk assessment and we have determined that there is no immediate risk to workers, we may simply record that and follow the instructions on the safety data sheet or on the label.

However, if there is a risk then we may need to implement special controls, such as personal protective equipment, we may need to put ventilation in, we may have a special set of circumstances we require for that particular usage of that substance. 


That’s all I have today to talk about risk assessments. See you next week, where I am going to discuss the control measures you should consider when using hazardous chemicals.

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