SPOT on Safety
From the field, to the lab, to the plant and beyond, chemicals abound in oil and gas related industries. Working with them safely requires proper controls, equipment, and behavior. Never handle or store chemicals without understanding potential hazards associated with them by reading and following the direction on the Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Always use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working with chemicals as prescribed by the SDS. Don’t mix chemicals if you’re not positive of their compatibility. If any doubt exists, stop work and get clarification before you act.
Karen D. Hamel, a regulatory compliance professional, outlines eight ways to help ensure maximum safety when dealing with chemicals:
Use General SOPs— A standard operating procedure (SOP) that addresses the use of correct personal protective equipment, safe handling, safe use, and proper disposal can cover all chemicals in a laboratory. Flip charts, signs, or other literature can then be used to remind workers of specific chemical hazards.
Air Flow— Air quality can quickly become compromised in laboratories, making ventilation an important factor in minimizing exposure. When determining whether the local exhaust system is adequate, a good rule of thumb is that the system should be capable of at least eight to 10 air changeouts per hour when the space is occupied.
Housekeeping— Keeping floors clean and dry will help prevent slip and fall injuries -- the third-leading cause of worker injury and lost work time. Stocking absorbent mat pads and wipers in spill-prone locations helps employees clean up spills quickly, so the chance of a slip-and-fall incident is reduced and exposure is minimized. Providing a proper receptacle for spent cleanup materials also helps to minimize exposure.
Storeroom Safety— A well-organized stockroom promotes safety and is more efficient. Putting one person in charge of the stockroom can help to facilitate proper organization and storage within the area. This person may also help to ensure that proper inventory levels are kept, duplicate orders aren't being placed, and expired chemicals are disposed of properly.
Tools— Using damaged glassware can be just as dangerous as using the wrong chemicals. It doesn't take much for a hairline crack to fail and create a spill. Using containment trays will help to control the mess, but avoiding it in the first place helps save time and money and minimizes exposure.
Spill Response— Even seasoned technicians can spill chemicals occasionally, so it's important to know how to properly handle spilled chemicals. Spill response plans should address spill prevention strategies, containment procedures, proper ventilation, when to evacuate, how to obtain medical care, and reporting requirements. Regular drills will help to reinforce the details of response plans.
Safety Equipment— Signs and container labels reinforce safety and serve as a constant reminder of specific handling, use, and disposal procedures. It is equally important to properly maintain eyewash stations, drench showers, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits so that workers who are exposed to chemicals can quickly access these tools in an emergency to lessen the effects of their exposure.
Training— Training is required for all workers prior to their assignment in a laboratory, but education should not stop there. An annual presentation may not be enough to reinforce safety; training should be a regular activity that addresses the many different aspects of avoiding exposure.