Despite their excellent industrial uses, highly reactive corrosive chemicals can damage or destroy materials like living tissues, metal, or wood. These chemicals can pose a significant risk to the safety of workers and the environment if not stored, handled, and disposed of properly. It may be possible for an employer to substitute the corrosive chemical for less hazardous alternatives. However, there might be situations where this is not possible. You must then take precautions to ensure you handle, store, and use corrosive chemicals as safely as possible. Join us, as in this blog, we will guide you on the tip for storing, handling, and safely disposing of corrosive chemicals.
Examples of corrosive chemicals
Acids and bases are the most common types of corrosive chemicals, but this does not mean that other classes of chemicals are not corrosive. Therefore, an individual needs to be aware of the properties of any chemical they are handling. While handling this chemical, you should be able to recognize hazard labels and understand the precautions you should manage when handling them.
Corrosive chemicals are widely used in various industries, including manufacturing, laboratories, construction, and cleaning services. These chemicals can range from different states of matter. Below are some examples of commonly used corrosive chemicals found in the workplace.
Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
Sodium Hydroxide is a chemical with many industrial applications, thus, it is commonly used. For example, NaOH is used in the papermaking process, soap making, and production of cosmetics. NaOH, called caustic soda, is a strong base used as a cleaning agent for drains, ovens, etc. Sodium hydroxide can be extremely dangerous if inhaled, swallowed, or comes in contact with your skin or eyes, causing severe burns, eye damage, and respiratory problems.
Hydrofluoric Acid (HF)
Hydrofluoric acid is a powerful inorganic acid. Its most common application is in industrial processes, such as cleaning metals, as HF properties allow the dissolution of impurities and oxides from the surfaces of metals. Other applications involve electronics, glass, and ceramics.
HF is highly corrosive, even the slightest contact can cause severe injuries such as burns and tissue damage. Inhalation of HF acid fumes can cause respiratory problems and lung damage. Worse, injuries from these acids may not be immediately visible or painful due to nerve damage.
Ammonia is also another highly corrosive chemical that has many industrial applications. Most commonly used in making fertilizers, plastics, and cleaning agents. NH3 is another hazardous chemical that can cause skin burns, eye damage, and respiratory problems from inhalation.
Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
HCL is the most popular corrosive chemical used in industrialized processes. Most commonly used for pickling, cleaning, and metal finishing. HCL also produces PVC and other plastics, textiles, and food processes. It is highly hazardous to human health and can cause severe burns if it comes in contact with the skin or eyes.
Other corrosive acids include:
Before choosing corrosive chemicals for your processes, it is essential to consider any other type of substitute, such as a less hazardous substance.
Risk assessment is a systematic approach to analyzing, evaluating, and controlling potential hazards associated with corrosive chemicals. Risk assessment is vital in ensuring the workplace’s safe storage, handling, and disposal of corrosive substances. The duty of carrying out a risk assessment falls on the shoulder of the employer.
An employer should regularly carry out assessments to identify the risk level, however, they can assign this specific role to a competent professional within the workplace, who should have expertise in carrying out a risk assessment. However, employers should provide all of their employees with COSHH risk assessment training to ensure that the staff is competent enough to analyze the risk in their work. Providing COSHH risk assessment training would promote a safe working environment as every worker would be capable of understanding the risk present in their surroundings with the help of this training.
Storage of Corrosive Chemicals
You should generally store corrosive chemicals in different storage areas, away from other non-hazardous materials, processing areas, and handling areas. These storage areas should be designed to reduce the repercussions that spillage, leaks, or fire can cause. Remember! Never store incompatible materials together; they can cause a violent reaction that forms heat and toxic gases.
Segregate corrosive chemicals
Corrosive chemicals should be segregated based on their properties, such as the pH level and compatibility with other chemicals. This helps prevent reactions that could lead to explosions or toxic gas releases. For example, acids and bases should not be stored together as they can react violently.
Ventilation is essential in storage areas. Whether it is rooms or cabinets, proper ventilation allows the fumes from building up.
Labeled containers correctly
Containers storing corrosive chemicals should be labeled clearly with the name and hazard warning.
Supplied with appropriate and adequate firefighting equipment
Safety measures should be present in the storage areas. However, not all corrosive chemicals react with the same firefighting equipment. For example, some corrosive chemicals can adversely respond to a water extinguisher, worsening the situation.
It is crucial to store all the chemicals at an appropriate temperature. This can be done by determining which chemical is best at which specific temperature. Considering the boiling and melting point of the substances is vital. It would be best to refrain from storing chemicals near a light or heat source, which can cause fumes to build up and lead to an accident.
Similarly, storing chemicals at a very cool temperature might cause the corrosive chemical to freeze and expand. Generally, it is vital that you keep the chemicals away from heat and direct sunlight and should store them in a cold and well-ventilated area.
Safety data sheet (SDSs)
A safety data sheet should contain important information regarding corrosive chemicals. A safety data sheet plays a vital role as you can find every possible information about a specific chemical on it. A SDSs comes in handy in case of emergency and application. A SDSs should contain the following:
- Identification of the substance
- Name, address, and contact of the manufacturer or supplier
- Hazards that the chemical can cause
- Composition details
- Transport, handling, storage, and disposal of information
- First aid and firefighting measures
Handling Corrosive Chemicals
Handling corrosive chemicals is an important thing to consider, even the slightest contact with these corrosives can cause skin burns and tissue damage. Therefore, you must handle containers and substances carefully and diligently. Before moving any container, you should make sure that they are not leaking from anywhere or is not damaged. Moving the vessels of corrosive chemicals from the bare hand can be threatening. Therefore, it is vital to use personal protective equipment. Some examples of PPE include:
- Lab coat, coveralls, apron, protective suit, etc.
Other safety measures while handling corrosive chemicals include:
- Cleaning up the chemical spills immediately.
- Refraining from mixing the chemicals.
- Using proper tools, such as those which are resistant to corrosion.
Disposal of Corrosive Chemicals
Remember that corrosive waste is also hazardous, so you must always handle waste substances with care and safety. You should refrain from putting waste chemicals in empty vessels, even though they might appear clean, there is still a chance of contamination and causing an adverse reaction. Furthermore, you should not pour corrosive chemicals down the sink or drain. Instead, follow what procedures you were taught. It is essential to correctly dispose of corrosive chemicals, as improper disposal can result in hefty fines and damage to the business’s reputation.
Training is the easiest way to prepare yourself for storing, handling, and disposing of corrosive chemicals. The person responsible for working with these corrosive chemicals must be adequately trained. Assigning a non-competent person to handle corrosive chemicals can cause harmful effects such as injuries and legal fines for poor workplace safety. Therefore, it is important for employers to substantially train their employees by giving them online COSHH training courses.
By providing your employees with COSHH training, you can teach them to become competent enough to perform their work effectively and carefully. Trainees can learn plenty of information and knowledge by taking COSHH training. Remember, even the slightest carelessness and irresponsibility while working with corrosive chemicals can be harmful. So you must train your employees to perform their tasks effectively while keeping the work environment safe and secure.
In conclusion, implementing the tips given in this guide blog for secure storage, handling, and disposal of corrosive chemicals is essential for the safety of workers and the environment. By following the steps in this blog, you, as an employer, can minimize the risk associated with corrosive chemicals and ensure compliance with local and national regulations.
The importance of conducting thorough risk assessments, wearing proper PPE, and providing COSHH training cannot be overstated. Taking steps to guarantee the safety of the workers and environment is a responsibility that every organization must take seriously. Organizations can create a safe and healthy work environment by following these tips and continuously enhancing safety practices.