Facing Employee’s Fear of Chemicals-May 2015

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

 May 2015

 IN THIS ISSUE: Facing Employee’s Fear of Chemicals

Chemophobia, or the irrational aversion to or prejudice against chemicals, is widespread. Pesticides in our environment, hydraulic fracturing contamination of our water, and chemicals and radiation in our food are constantly in the news. Past disasters, such as Bhopal India and the oil platform blow-out in the Gulf, confirm our fears. In the workplace, employees may have similar fears about the chemicals at the facility. A forklift driver may feel comfortable with his equipment but fearful driving by an acid tank as part of his routine. However, researchers from Dartmouth College warn that people should be more mindful of natural bacteria, fungi and pathogens that kill thousands each year, than avoiding pesticides and dioxins. Recent outbreaks of whooping cough and measles have been directly attributed to failure of children to be vaccinated despite the weight of scientific evidence that vaccinations are safe.

The best way to face employees’ fears is through participation and transparency in the recognition, evaluation, and control of chemical hazards. Employees should participate in all aspects of dealing with chemicals, and they should have easy access to information about the controls and hazards of chemicals. If a chemical incident should occur or an employee concern arises, it should be quickly investigated and the results made known to all employees. Workers should be informed of any upcoming chemical testing and the results published. This will help allay fears and build trust.

The best way to protect workers from chemicals is to control the hazard:

  • Gather information about the hazards found in Safety Data Sheets and other materials.
  • Make sure that adequate engineering controls are in place on all processes and are maintained.
  • Establish procedures for the safe operation of all equipment, chemicals hazards, and provide personal protective equipment.
  • Train employees on procedures to stay safe. Include chemical hazards of other areas of the facility and how to respond to an emergency.
  • Institute an approval process for any new chemical or product that is brought into the facility, including any change in formula of an existing product. Engineering, production, purchasing, safety, and the employees should participate in the approval process.

Fear of chemicals is an on-going issue in our society and the same is true in the workplace. Having adequate controls, training, and employee participation and buy-in can allay these fears 

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or contact us at occusafe@occusafeinc.com.

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.


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