Specialty Chemical Handling Insights from a Full Service Engineering Firm
Specialty chemicals, also known as effect chemicals or performance chemicals, are critically important in a wide range of business sectors, from automotive, electronics, and aerospace, to construction and agriculture. However, many types of specialty chemicals have characteristics that make them harmful to people, the environment, or both. For example, they may be caustic, flammable, volatile, or reactive. Consequently, it is important that companies work with a full service engineering firm when designing or enhancing their lab or storage facilities.
9 Tips for Safe Storage and Handling of Specialty Chemicals
Every company that manufactures, stores, handles, or uses specialty chemicals should have detailed processes in place for dealing with these substances. These processes, often produced with input from a full service engineering firm, help ensure the safety of the organization’s staff and property, as well as the surrounding environment and the people in the area who could be impacted by the mishandling of potentially dangerous substances.
While every organization’s approach to chemical safety is different based on the specialty chemicals they deal with, there are certain steps all companies should take, including that they should:
- Create and maintain a chemical hygiene plan. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifies elements that must be in this plan. Maintenance is a key part of this task, as the plan must be kept current as chemical inventories and processes change over time.
- Ensure adequate ventilation. Many specialty chemicals and their components are volatile and can evaporate at typical facility temperatures. This means it is important to have ventilation systems that are large enough to accommodate the space, meet OSHA guidelines, and are in good repair.
- Keep incompatible chemicals apart. In many cases, the most significant danger posed by specialty chemicals is the chemical reactions that can occur if the wrong ingredients come together. Proper containment is essential, and an experienced full service engineering firm can provide guidance on the design and operation of storage spaces.
- Provide appropriate training to employees. Ensuring that staff members know how to safely handle and store chemicals, and how to react if a chemical spill or other emergency occurs, is critical. Too often, minor issues become major problems when the response to them is ineffective or incomplete.
- Ensure employees and visitors have adequate safety gear. From helmets and eye protection, to gowns and gloves, it is critical that people have what they need to protect their bodies from any harmful characteristics of the specialty chemicals a company produces or uses.
- Define and enforce general workplace safety standards. Common sense rules like keeping aisles free of tripping hazards and work benches tidy to minimize the chances of a chemical container being knocked over aren’t always followed. It is important to document these guidelines and take steps to monitor compliance.
- Minimize the use of machinery. While forklifts and similar machinery may be needed to move containers around a facility, in general, their use should be limited. Plus, all operators should be trained. One wrong move with a powerful machine can result in disaster.
- Perform emergency response drills. How will employees react if a chemical is spilled? If a team member comes into unprotected contact with a harmful substance? If a toxic cloud is accidentally released inside the building? It is important both to have a plan for any likely scenario and to practice the steps.
- Ensure that the facility is secure. Not only is there a risk of accidents with specialty chemicals, there is also the possibility of intentional misuse. Strict security protocols should be followed to ensure that substances don’t get into the wrong hands.
Full Service Engineering Services that Support Proper Chemical Handling
Both the processes a company follows and the design of the spaces in which they are used play a role in safe chemical handling. A skilled full service engineering firm can provide input and expertise in both areas.
APECS achieves outstanding results in specialty chemical facility design because of our 30+ years of experience as a full service engineering firm helping our clients meet their engineering, design, project and portfolio management, capital planning, and environmental health & safety needs. Contact APECS, Inc. today to learn more about how we can help with with your specialty chemical plant design needs.