Look Twice, Act Once - Hazardous Materials p. 3 - Other Materials

We’ve mentioned these hazards in passing before – but we wanted to talk a little bit more about hazardous materials you might find on a worksite. These can range from materials used in your general work duties, right through to foreign bodies/substances on site (the latter is particularly a problem if you’re working on a building site without security fencing or barriers in place).

Some common hazardous substances you might encounter are things like acids, glues, paint, pesticides, solvents, or more caustic substances. Some of these might be in a tradesperson’s toolkit (for example flux in a plumber’s tool bag), or you might find some around a home you’re working at – for example hydrochloric acid in a pool house, or bleach in a laundry area.

The good news is, that generally speaking these acids and substances can be easily avoided, (AETZ99) and aren’t usually a hazard. But, accidents can – and do – happen. Someone might accidentally spill a bottle of mineral turpentine on the floor, or you might accidentally touch a can of mortein. In all these cases, it’s helpful to know the proper procedure for exposure.

Firstly, it’s worth knowing that a hazardous substance can be inhaled, splashed on you, or swallowed. And, this can cause things as simple as nausea or a headache, right through to much more severe issues like chemical burns, or death. Don’t just assume that because the substance spilt of the floor is over the other side of the room that it won’t hurt you. Alert someone to the spill, and ascertain the risk. If there is a strong smell, attempt to ventilate the area by opening windows or doors. If this feels like it will not work, feel free to leave the area.

Secondly, you should always have on hand a safety data sheet on how to safely (and correctly) dispose of any hazardous material that you might be working with. This is so you can safely proceed with your work, and make sure the work area and work site is safe for you – and everyone else.

Finally, if you do happen to come across, or accidentally create a hazard with a hazardous material, make sure you report it to the relevant people on site, and make sure you can make the area safe – whether that is by cleaning up the issue, securing the area/cordoning it off, or evacuating (if need be).

Published on: Friday, 21 October 2022