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What is Chemical Safety?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Chemical safety is a branch of occupational health which is concerned with maximizing safety in environments where chemicals are involved. Many governments have agencies which make chemical safety recommendations and enforce laws relating to chemical safety, and professional associations of chemists also tend to have advisory bodies which discuss safety issues. Many people are introduced to chemical safety at a young age, as their parents advise them about substances around the house which are dangerous to handle.

Chemicals can be extremely useful for a wide range of applications, but they can also be quite dangerous at times, especially when they are handled and processed improperly. The practice of chemical safety is designed to identify chemicals which are hazardous, to use clear marking systems to label hazardous chemicals, and to have protocols in place for handling such chemicals with the goal of preventing accidents. Occupational health and safety laws often specifically address chemicals and the way in which they should be handled, stored, and destroyed.

One innovation in the field of chemical safety is the development of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), informational sheets which clearly describe various chemicals, their effects on the human body, the ways in which they should be handled, and unique hazards, such as exposure to heat which could cause spontaneous combustion for some chemicals. Chemical labeling systems such as the distinctive diamond labels used on chemical containers are also a form of chemical safety which are designed to clearly convey relevant safety information.

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Chemical safety is applicable everywhere from a high school chemical lab in which students need to learn to work with chemicals safely to a chemical plant in which chemicals are manufactured on a large scale. It is also a concern in any environment where people use chemicals, from cleaning chemicals utilized in hospitals to chemicals used in the production of various consumer goods. Guidelines are usually clearly posted in environments where chemicals are used and people new to the space may be given an orientation by a supervisor or safety adviser before they are allowed to work.

The focus of chemical safety is on identifying potential hazards so that incidents with chemicals can be avoided, and developing protocols for dealing efficiently and correctly with incidents such as spills. Many companies which deal with chemicals have their own safety protocols and guidelines in place, with these documents being formulated in response to recommendations from professional organizations and the government. It is critical for people to comply with guidelines for their own safety and the safety of others.

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