Working Safely with Corrosives and Solvents
As a construction worker, you are always working around hazardous substances. Today we will focus on two specific types – corrosives and solvents – and discuss what you can do to protect yourself from exposure to these dangerous chemicals.
A corrosive is a substance that causes visible destruction or irreversible alterations to living tissue at the site of contact. In other words, corrosives eat through skin tissue as well as through other materials. Some common corrosives include drain cleansers, Portland cement, and common acids.
Hazards include burns that can damage your eyes, skin, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tract if you touch, inhale, or swallow the chemical. Essentially, any exposure to a corrosive can lead to a chemical burn. When handling Portland cement or acids, it’s important that you wear the proper eye protection such as chemical goggles, and hand and finger protection. Protective clothing or aprons can also help prevent chemical burns to the body.
A solvent is a substance, usually a liquid, in which other substances dissolve. Solvents can be found in many products around a jobsite such as paint, paint thinners, caulks, cleaners, degreasers, fuels, and adhesives. Note that you may be exposed even if you never come in contact with a liquid. Many solvents evaporate or outgas during drying and curing processes (like when paint dries); you can be exposed by inhaling the solvent present in the air. Some health effects of exposure to solvents include nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, damage to skin tissue, and even permanent blindness. Some solvents can cause damage to internal organs and cause long-term health effects like cancer.
When working with corrosives, solvents, or any hazardous chemical, review the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Pay particular attention to information on routes of entry and ways to protect yourself from injury. Once you have read it, it’s important that you wear all the PPE required to protect yourself from injury.
Keep in mind that chemicals can enter your body in four different ways: 1) Inhalation through the lungs if it’s in the air around you; 2) Absorption through the skin or eyes if you come in contact with the chemical; 3) Ingestion by mouth, especially if it’s accidentally mixed with food or drink; and 4) Injection if you work around a high-pressure line containing the chemical.
You can protect yourself by knowing the hazards of corrosives and solvents. Always know what chemicals you’re working with. Use PPE and make sure you work in an area with lots of fresh air. Know what to do in case of accidental contact with the chemical. You can get additional information from the label, the SDS, or from your supervisor.
Don’t let hazardous chemicals become environmental contaminants. Dispose of hazardous materials in the appropriate manner.
Near Misses Reported in May
Contractor blasting personnel was in an enclosed area with plastic over the top of shoring boxes – the effort was to contain the dust and particulate. This inspector asked how they were communicating with the “man in the hole” as they couldn’t see him and could only assume that just because the compressor and blasting machine was running that he was ok. (It was suggested that as the blaster had to climb over and around the jacks in the hole that if he fell and was lying on the trigger they would never know it) When no answer was given a tethering system was suggested where a spotter could tug on it and he could respond if he was in fact ok). This prevented any further issues.
Work Smarter/ Proper lifting Tech
Individual picked up a tank valve and carried it to the pallet we were placing them on for shipment.
Situational Awareness / Proper Spotter Training
We had a guy nearly back over a CP PVC test station in a skid steer with a spotter,
No Homemade Fixes – Manufactures Approved Parts
Sucker hoe gasket separated in a seam and contractor attempted to repair with gorilla glue. Adhesive setup to hard and would not allow gasket to seal.
Traffic not slowing down at road crossing, causing dust in turn workers not beefing able to see.
Winners for May
Zachary Braman 100
Craig Rawle 100
Fernie Munoz 50
Darin McAlister 50
Chrissie Strother 25
Mark Gallagher 25
Michael Long 25
Christopher Eaddy 25
Tony Wells 25
Mark Bahn 25
James Glass 25
Darren Novak 25
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