Corrosive substances are chemicals that can pose a danger to your skin, eyes, or respiratory tract when you come into contact with them. Often these chemicals are used for industrial purposes, and handlers of these substances would be required, by law, to wear protective clothing that covers their hands, faces, or entire bodies when coming into contact with them. They may also need to handle these corrosive materials with appropriate apparatus.
These corrosive substances also require safe storage in specifically designed containers that will prevent any danger when the chemicals are not in use. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards require that all handlers of these substances are provided with the correct equipment and that they are stored correctly.
Containers must also be labelled correctly, and warning placards and safety placards must be clearly on view. Special care must also be taken when transporting these hazardous materials. An industry-approved dangerous goods storage cabinet must be used to store corrosive liquids, solids, or gaseous materials to ensure safety risks are minimised.
What Are Corrosive Substances?
Corrosive materials fall into three categories: liquid, solids, and gases. Each must be handled and stored differently, as they present different risks and hazards.
Corrosive liquids present a particular hazard to skin or eye contact, as accidental splashes or spills can readily occur if the substances are not handled properly. Also, their dangerous effect on human tissue can take place very rapidly once in contact, so the highest safety precautions must be taken when working with liquid chemicals. Some of the damage can also be permanent.
The following safety equipment must be worn in order to protect handlers:
- Safety goggles and other approved eye and face protection to protect eyes and facial tissue.
- Chemical-resistant gloves that will prevent the liquid from coming into contact with the handlers’ skin.
These precautions must also be considered when working with dangerous liquid substances:
- Acids and bases must be separated when storing, to minimise any risk.
- Any corrosive liquid must always be stored below eye level.
- Spill control kits must be within easy reach and ready for immediate application.
Whilst they present less of a rapid risk than liquids, corrosive solids are equally very harmful to skin and eyes. Dust from corrosive solids can be easily inhaled and then affect the respiratory tract, causing irritation or burns. Some corrosive solids can also react with water and give off a lot of heat, so it is important to not allow splashes of nearby water to accidentally interact with the solid.
The following safety equipment and precautions must be taken by handlers:
- Safety gloves and glasses/goggles must be worn when handling these corrosive solids.
- If there is a strong possibility of generating a lot of dust that may be inhaled, then work must be conducted in a fume hood.
- If it is necessary to mix the corrosive solid with water, then this must be done slowly whilst continuously stirring, as to control the reaction
The final kinds of corrosive substance are gases and vapours. These are particularly dangerous because they pose a hazard to all parts of the body if inhaled. Certain organs that are exposed to the gases, e.g. the eyes or respiratory tract, will be particularly sensitive to ensuing damage.
The effect of the gas or vapour on the body depends on the solubility of the material in the body fluids. This means that a highly soluble gas (e.g. ammonia or hydrogen chloride) will severely irritate the nose or throat; whereas gasses or vapours with lower solubility (e.g. nitrogen dioxide or sulphur dioxide) can penetrate deep into the lungs.
The following rules must be followed in order to protect handlers:
- Manipulations of hazardous gases or vapours must be performed in a chemical fume hood in order to minimise hazardous inhalation.
- Exposure to the corrosive gases must be prevented against by wearing appropriate respiratory protection.
- All exposed skin surfaces must be covered to protect against coming into contact with the corrosive gas or vapour.
- Eyes must be also protected if there is a danger they will be affected by the hazardous gases.
- If a gas must be discharged into a liquid, then a safety mechanism preventing reverse flow must be installed.
- Any regulators or valves must be firmly closed when the gas cylinder is not in use; also flushed with dry air or nitrogen after each use.
- Warning devices should be fitted into the room to inform handlers of impending over-exposure.
How to Work Safely With Corrosive Substances
Firstly, you can ask yourself if the corrosive material could, in fact, be substituted with a less hazardous one. Occasionally it is possible to find a substitute substance that is much less corrosive and therefore less dangerous. You should always choose the least corrosive material whenever possible to safeguard against chemical hazards.
The next thing to consider is whether there is adequate ventilation in the room in which you are working with the chemicals. This is particularly valid if working with gases or solids that may give off airborne dust, but also must be considered for all work with liquid chemicals that may produce vapours, fumes, or mists. The type of hazard using each corrosive substance needs to be measured against the amount of materials used and the size of the work area. In some cases, a well-placed exhaust fan may be required, but only if it is fitted with corrosive-resistant material.
Storage of corrosive materials is of the utmost importance, and each container must be selected on the basis that it has been specifically designed to store the hazardous liquid, solid, or gas. If the containers are not made from the correct material, then the corrosive substance may destroy the containers, which presents a huge safety risk. They should also be placed in cabinets that ensure they are only accessed by the permitted personnel. All cabinets and containers must also be correctly labelled with appropriate warnings attached to the exterior.
Another important factor regarding storage is ensuring they are kept away from processing and handling areas when not in use, as this significantly reduces the risk of accidents from occurring. At the very least, corrosives should be stored away from incompatible materials, for example by keeping acids and bases away from each other.
Furthermore, due care should be taken to ensure that corrosive materials are stored in well-ventilated areas, labelled with proper warning signs, and in the vicinity of spill clean-up and fire-fighting equipment, just as they would be in the work area. Storage units must also be protected against physical damage when being moved or transported, as this could limit the effectiveness of the materials used to store the chemicals.
Staying Safe around Corrosives
Corrosive materials present a certain risk to people when they are exposed to them. This is why safety equipment should be worn when handling the liquids, solids, or gases to protect a person’s skin, eyes, or respiratory tract. Some of the damage caused can be permanent.
It is also extremely important to store the chemicals properly when not in use. This will keep the corrosive substances safe when not in use or being transported. All containers must be labelled correctly and kept segregated from work areas. We are an industry-approved supplier of corrosive storage containers and safety cabinets in Perth so contact us today to discuss our product range.