Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | March 15, 2010

Hazardous Materials in the Workplace

Keep your pups away from hazardous materials.

Virtually every workplace and tenant has chemicals or other potentially hazardous materials. Around my group, chocolate is the main hazardous material. If it is bad for us, why is it so darn tasty?

Potentially harmful agents include simple, everyday cleaners that might be stowed under the kitchen sink as well as heavy-duty chemicals stored in manufacturing facilities. Remember that effective planning for any emergency requires education and preparation. Detailed information about what chemicals your tenants use will give you a head start in any disaster. For example, Hazmat crews need ready information about the potential threats so they can contain and clean the affected area. I needed some hazmat assistance after eating Play Doh once. It wasn’t pretty. If you do your homework beforehand, you’ll be able to help emergency personnel when they arrive on the scene.

Those who work with chemicals run an increased risk of chemical fires. Work with your tenants to be sure all protocols are in place and flammable and explosive materials are properly stored. The fire department needs to know exactly which chemicals are present. For example, they need to be informed if any agents are present that could potentially explode if they come in contact with water. I dropped my favorite squirrel plush toy in water once, and it never smelled the same.

Dealing with Hazardous Materials:

  • In the kitchen, bathroom or storage areas:
    • Take an inventory of tenants’ cleaning products and where they are stored. Too many chemicals in a cramped area can lead to danger. Also be sure to label the dog treats and leftover pork chops.
    • Instruct tenants and cleaning crews not to mix chemicals. For example, bleach products should never be mixed with ammonia.
    • Make sure janitorial personnel alert your facility team to all major spills.
  • Chemical Labeling and Identification:
    • Proper labeling of materials is a first step in safety. For example, NFPA 704 is a group of standards denoting different degrees of potential harm.
      • The system uses a diamond shape that denotes red for “Flammability,” blue for “Health.” yellow for “Instability,” and white for “Special” hazards, such as chemicals that react violently with water. RJWestmore Training System users have access to helpful links and information, such as—“How to Read a Fire Diamond.”
      • Numbers from 0 to 4 rate the severity of the hazard.
      • Remind tenants of new code changes regarding labeling practices to help them stay in compliance.
  • Emergency Management:
    • Knowing which types of chemicals are being used or produced by tenants will help with proper emergency response. Inform tenants about the different types of fire extinguishers are needed for a variety of fire types, such as those caused by certain chemicals. Make sure you and tenants know what to expect and how to be best prepared.
  • Teach your tenants to remember S.I.N. (Different than S.I.T. – I hate that one!)
    • Safety – Assume the materials are dangerous and keep a good distance.
    • Isolation – Close the room or area of your building.
    • Notification – Make sure tenants notify 911 and building management.

If you take time to glance at the dozens of OSHA regulations for chemicals from Nitrous Oxide to pool cleaning supplies, it will become apparent that careful attention to detail is required to ensure safety. If your tenant is producing complicated products using a variety of materials, it is your shared responsibility to follow all code requirements to protect your building.

RJWestmore Training System users have unrestricted access to helpful links about how to identify and prepare for hazardous materials-related emergencies. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact the great people over at RJ Westmore. Their e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

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