Chemical hazard training: who needs to be trained?

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When it comes to chemical risk at work, it is often thought that this is present only in workplaces where particular toxic and corrosive substances are used, for example, in laboratories or chemical industries. However, the use of substances classified as toxic is much more common than one might think. In fact, these substances range from disinfectants to cleaning products, printing chemical agents and paint, to name but a few.

People who work with hazardous, toxic substances on a regular basis need to be trained on how to handle the chemical substances appropriately and the training should also include information on the hazards of the chemicals present at their place of work and the measures to be used to protect themselves.

What is learnt during a chemical risk training course

In many countries, attending a chemical hazard/risk training course is mandatory for anyone working in sectors where such risks have been identified. In fact, all employers with hazardous chemicals at their workplace are required by law to train all their exposed workers on how to handle harmful substances appropriately. During a chemical hazard training course, workers:

  • are provided with information concerning the characteristics of the chemical agents to which they are exposed
  • are taught to recognised pictograms and comprehend labels and safety data sheets present at the workplace.

Workers will therefore be aware if they are being exposed to substances which are carcinogenic thanks to the “carcinogen” symbol posted and will also be warned of the potential danger of the chemical substances they are exposed to as well as the difference between a “carcinogenic” substance and a “toxic” one, and between a chemical risk described as “hazardous” and the symbol which indicates “dangerous to human health”. During the training courses on chemical risk, symbols are not the only fundamental elements that are taught, in fact, workers are also provided with information and a series of notions:

  • on health and safety in general,
  • on the concept of prevention and protection at the workplace,
  • on the rights and duties of workers in relation to risk at the workplace,
  • on the health and safety procedures to be followed depending on the specific job duties and type of risk to which workers are exposed.

Respiratory protective devices used for training courses

Besides the fact that the first notion given during a chemical risk course is the definition of the risk itself, many other aspects related to the risk, e.g. use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), are also introduced and thoroughly treated. PPE to be used for protection against chemical risk have specific characteristics that differentiate them, for example, from those worn for protection against mechanical risk. Among the chemical risk PPE, in addition to specific protective clothing and gloves, which need to be resistant to permeation, PPE which provide protection of the face, eyes and the respiratory system, i.e. respiratory protective devices (RPD), are also to be used. Powered air purifying respirators with face mask or helmet are among the different types of RPD available which provide an appropriate and comfortable flow of filtered air. Some respirator models are also equipped with visual and acoustic devices to signal any anomalies the device might have.