No matter what type of business you run, you need to ensure that your employees receive adequate hazard safety and emergency training. In 2019 at a popular wing restaurant chain, an employee was killed and another ten people became severely ill after two opposing chemical cleaners were mixed together and caused a hazardous chemical reaction. Had the employee who mixed the cleaners, been properly educated on what cleaners can and cannot be mixed this life-threatening situation could have been avoided. By properly educating your employees you can prevent such dangerous situations that could cost the ultimate price: human lives.
Before you start hazmat training for your employees, make sure that you conduct a thorough needs assessment to protect your employees and your facility by providing pertinent information to each group of employees.
For example, your office staff may not ever need to know how to handle the volatile chemicals used in your shop on a daily basis. However, they should know how to manage
- fire risk
- skin injury after contact
- inhalation risk after a spill
- access to emergency supplies and eye flushing stations if applicable
Pertinent data can include first aid training, proper ventilation steps, and how to manage a large chemical fire extinguisher for every employee in your facility.
Now is also the time to boost communication options among employees. Should an emergency arise while employees are on lunch, you want to be able to notify them to avoid returning until the crisis has passed.
These contact lists can also come in very handy in the event of
- dangerous weather events
- active shooter or robbery happenings
- natural disaster
- fire alarms
Signing up for a texting service for all employees is an ideal choice. Consider conducting a review of this emergency contact data each year during training.
Part of preparing for an emergency is having professional help lined up before you have a crisis. While a call to 911 will bring out the police, ambulance, or fire engines, you will want to have an arrangement with an emergency response cleaning crew who can help clean up if your facility uses a particularly hazardous line of products.
Review the Material Safety Data Sheets on all products stored in your maintenance cabinets and on your shop floors. Be ready to share this data with fire professionals, paramedics, and other first responders in the event of a serious event at your facility.
If you know that your facility is facing a crisis after a spill or leak, having a relationship with cleanup professionals who understand the chemistry can shorten your downtime and protect your employees, facility, and schedule effectively.
Take care to post hazardous data information in the appropriate places. Just as you’d keep a fire extinguisher close to the kitchen, you will want to post data about any hazardous chemicals in the region where the chemicals may have an impact.
In the event that your business works with products that can be dangerous should they evaporate, make sure the data that you post also includes information on the risk of injury from inhaling volatile products. For example, if your business does any metal forming and you work with alcohol-based solvents, a spill could be nearly as hazardous as a fire over time and may harm anyone who is exposed to the evaporated gases. Even something that seems as harmful as a paint or chemical cleaner spill can become hazardous quickly.
Consider also sharing information on disasters or hazmat failures. Sadly, one serious event related to volatile chemicals can lead to massive regulatory changes that can impact your ability to manufacture and sell your products. Posting articles about serious industrial accidents related to hazmat events is not fear-mongering. It is reminding employees that it only takes one accident to radically change their lives and the lives of their co-workers.
Every business is different, but every industry has inherent risks. Whether your employees need to know how to handle a fire extinguisher or need to know how to gear up for handling volatile chemicals, your planning and training process is critical for the safety of your employees and business.
Make sure that your business is operating in practices that are compliant with OSHA regulations. Part of these regulations requires you as an employer, to post signs indicating the dangers of a product or machines were applicable. On their site, you can find useful information, about their regulations to see if your business fits their standards and will give you material to use within your hazmat safety training videos for your employees.
Assign a hazmat training manager to your training schedule and make sure that your employees fully understand what the risks and responsibilities are. A great benefit of proper training means that you can reduce the risk of an emergency by making sure that all employees know how to handle (or who to call about) the most dangerous products used by your business.
Because hazmat training can be worrying, making sure that your team enjoys positive results from your training is critical. Of course, the training should be serious. However, the follow-up can include some fun. Consider creating awards for the employees who get the most right answers on the follow-up “quiz”, and consider pop quizzes about issues such as where to find MSDS sheets or where the fire extinguishers are.
An important part of any safety training is repetition. People forget information over time so it is important to repeat safety training. If you are working in a warehouse with a lot of hazardous materials and machinery you to may want to repeat training once a month. However, if your employees are in an office you may want to repeat it every six months or yearly.
By providing training to your employees on how to prevent hazardous chemical and safety emergencies, you can have a safer workplace that will keep employees well. No job is worth risking one’s safety to get things done quickly. Many people are not aware of how to handle dangerous or life-threatening situations so it is important to equip your employees with the knowledge they need to respond to it.