Chemicals play important roles in our everyday lives. They are found in a wide range of household and commercial products that can be lifesaving as well as hazardous to our health.
Chemicals can be solids (e.g. dusts, fibres), liquids or mists (e.g. bleach) or gases / vapours (e.g. carbon monoxide, ammonia). They can be individual substances like petrol or mixtures / products (e.g. paints, degreasers, ink and toners). Any chemical, in either gas, liquid or solid form, that has the potential to cause harm is referred to as a hazardous chemical.
Chemicals include those that are brought into the workplace and used for processing (e.g. solvents and cleaning agents) and those that are generated by a process or work activity (such as fumes from welding / soldering) or generated as waste or residue (such as carbon monoxide from engine or exhausts).
Chemicals, if not managed effectively can cause harm to health ranging from mild skin irritation to cancer when they come in contact with the human body.
The Safety, Health and Welfare At Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations, 2001 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 apply to any enterprise where hazardous chemical agents are used or generated.
(Please note that the COSHH or Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations are UK Regulations and do not apply)
The Regulations lay down requirements to:
- Determine the hazards (See Label, Safety Data Sheet), associated with the activity
- Assess the risk (what is the exposure? How much exposure? For how long? How often?) to employees and others (Hazardous Substance Assessment Form (HSAF))
- Put prevention and control measures in place following the risk assessment
- Make arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies
- Make arrangements for information, training and consulting their employees
- Provide appropriate health surveillance
- Keep exposure records
In the case of a new activity involving hazardous chemical agents, work should not commence until after an assessment of the risk of that activity has been made and the preventive measures identified in the risk assessment have been implemented.