Any chemical can be safely handled, regardless of how toxic it may be. The safe use, storage and handling of chemicals requires the highest level of competence and professionalism on the worksite. While each incident is different, there is a golden rule, which, if followed, will reduce the chance of an incident and minimize its effects should it occur. In applying this rule, use should be made of any technical expertise available within the organization.

The golden rule can be remembered by the simple mnemonic 'FAD'.

F - Find out the hazards

A - Assess the risk

D - Devise a strategy

The first step is to find which of the substances being used are hazardous. All packaged dangerous substances are required to be labelled with a label that includes a hazardous warning. Assessing the risk should be based on five parameters:

  • Potential hazard
  • Estimated exposure level
  • Manufacturing frequency
  • Duration of each manufacture
  • Number of workers exposed

Devising a strategy involves arriving at a standard that reduces to a minimum the risk from exposure and at the same time is economically viable. Any strategy must accommodate such faults and failures as the flammability of the material, monitoring the state of reactions, the effect of loss of containment, the amount of waste produced by the process and the measures to ensure that emissions remain within acceptable environmental limits.