Safety Spotlight: Preventing Chemical Contamination

April 7, 2020

Chemical contamination, like virus contamination, usually happens unconsciously.

Tiny amounts of material get on our hands or gloves, and spread to everything we touch- door knobs, our face, our lunch. Preventing the spread of chemical contaminates takes an arson of weaponry, and starts by reading the SDS and labels that will tell how to protect yourself. Persons that regularly work with toxins, corrosives, and other hazardous chemicals need to be intimately familiar with the subject of chemical contamination.

Chemical contaminates enter your body in four major ways:

  1. Inhalation – breathe in airborne particles or fumes
  2. Eye Contact – comes in contact with your eyes, often via your hands
  3. Skin Contact – may happen through absorption or injection
  4. Ingestion – eat it, i.e. after unconsciously contaminating your food.

In order to prevent chemical contaminates from entering our bodies, there are three main measures that we can take:

  1. Personal Protective Equipment – Anticipate the hazards you are working with when considering what PPE to wear, and use all the PPE needed to protect yourself adequately. PPE should be carefully inspected for tears, and should be a good fit. Remember that liquid can make rubber gloves permeable, so they should be changed every couple of hours; see this helpful guide, How To Remove Gloves.
  2. Engineering Controls – Equipment such as splash guards and ventilation hoods in a laboratory or workstation can protect employees from contamination hazards.
  3. Safe Work Practices – Mindfulness and good housekeeping practices go a long way toward preventing chemical contamination:
    • Before starting a procedure, have a plan for clean up or disposal. Be careful about what you pour down the drain.
    • Where possible, use smaller containers, and store chemicals when they’re not being used.
    • Avoid nervous habits like touching your face.
    • PPE and supplies such as office supplies that are used around chemicals should be considered contaminated and left in the work area.
    • Uncontaminated objects, such as food or drink, should never be brought into the work area.
    • Never mix contaminates with uncontaminated objects or areas.
    • Surfaces and equipment, as well as your hands, should be washed up when you’re done using chemicals.
    • Clean up any spills immediately.