Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us

Hazardous Substances Demand Your Respect

You may be at risk of accidental poisonings, chemical burns, or suffocation. It depends on where you work and the substances you handle. Knowing and following the right safety steps can help keep you safe. These are some of the hazards you may come across:

  • Asphyxiants. Gases that displace or dilute breathable air (oxygen) can cause suffocation in large quantities. (Examples: carbon dioxide and nitrogen.)

  • Carcinogens. Chemicals that can cause cancer after many years if you unknowingly swallow, breathe them in, or soak them up through your skin. (Examples: asbestos, radon, vinyl chloride, and benzene.)

  • Compressed gases. These substances are often stored in cylinders under high pre. This can knock down people or walls.

  • Corrosives. Acids or alkaline substances can penetrate or burn through the skin. (Examples: nitric, sulfuric, or hydrochloric acid, and sodium hydroxide.)

  • Flammables. Liquids, vapors, or gases that can catch fire or explode when exposed to a flame, an operating electrical tool, or even a simple static spark. (Examples: methane and propane.)

  • Teratogens. Chemicals that can lead to birth defects. (Examples: isotretinoin, excess vitamin A, alcohol, and thalidomide.)

  • Toxic chemicals. Substances that can damage the body's organs when they're inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. (Examples: lead, cadmium, and pesticides.)

Safety musts

Talk with your supervisor to find out what you're working with, and how to work safely with it. Also do the following:

  • Read the employer's Safety Data Sheet. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires your employer to have a sheet for each chemical in use.

  • Get the facts. OSHA rules require employers to give the correct training to any worker who uses hazardous chemicals.

  • Get training. Learn about the chemicals you're working with, how to handle them, how to use the right personal and protective equipment. And how to respond to emergencies. Know the maximum amount of exposure time that is safe for the chemicals you are using.

  • Always read the label. The label will tell you if a substance is flammable, corrosive, or cancer-causing. It also will state if you need to wear a respirator or gloves or work under a chemical hood.

  • Wear protective equipment. You may need a respirator, hardhat, steel-toed shoes, gloves, splash goggles, or face shield.

  • Learn to use emergency equipment. That might include eyewash stations or deluge showers. Learn how to turn on emergency alarms in the event of a fire, spill, or other chemical release.

  • Report any problems. Know how to file a confidential safety and health report if you believe that something in your workplace is hazardous and is not being addressed by your employer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Callie Tayrien RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
The health content and information on this site is made possible through the generous support of the Haspel Education Fund.
StayWell Disclaimer