Chemical routes of entry
There are four major routes of entry chemicals can follow:
- Inhalation (breathing)
- Absorption (skin contact)
- Ingestion (eating)
How a chemical enters your body:
Breathing is the most common way workplace chemicals enter the body. This can happen if you aren’t wearing respiratory protection or the wrong kind of protection.
It’s important to wash your hands regularly when working with chemicals.
Not only can you swallow the chemicals but there is an elevated inhalation risk for smokers since the cigarette is heating and vaporizing the chemical contaminant on your hands.
Whichever way the chemical enters your body, it spread through your body via the bloodstream. Chemicals in your body can attack and damage organs, even if they are far away from the original point of entry.
How to prevent harmful health effects from chemicals:
You should eliminate or reduce the hazard to prevent harmful health types.
Some preventative measures include:
Engineering Controls (isolating or removing the hazard):
- Enclose process
- Provide local exhaust
- Time work so fewer workers are exposed
- Work upwind of mixing operations
- Shower after shift
- Change clothes
- No food or smoking in work areas
Personal Protective Equipment
Depending on the job you are doing and the type of material you are handling, you may need various levels of eye protection including:
- safety glasses
- chemical safety goggles
- a face shield, or
- some combination of these.
Skin protection includes items such as gloves, aprons, full bodysuits, and boots.
The SDS should tell you the types of materials that provide the best protection against the product you are using.
No single material acts as a barrier to all chemicals.
It is also important to consider the temperature conditions and the need for materials not easily cut or torn.
There are several types of respirators on the market.
Some are effective against some chemicals but may provide little or no protection against others.
Selecting the best respirator for you can be quite complicated.
Creating Respiratory Protection Guidelines:
A qualified person must carry out a detailed assessment of your workplace including all chemicals used and their airborne concentrations and forms.
Complete respiratory protection guidelines generally cannot be given on the SDS.
If respirators are required at your worksite, a complete respiratory protection program including respirator selection, fit testing, training and maintenance is necessary.
Our team at Levitt-Safety can provide all of these services – fill out the form on this page to get started.
Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
A safety data sheet (SDS) is an important component of occupational health and safety.
It's intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with a hazardous substance in a safe manner and includes information such as:
- physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point)
- health effects
- first aid
- protective equipment, and
- spill-handling procedures.
You should check that the description (physical state and appearance) of the material on the SDS is the same as the material you have. If it isn't, you may not have the correct SDS
Alternatively, the material may be old or may have decomposed during shipping or storage.
In either case, the information on the MSDS may not apply, and you should obtain additional advice.
Acute and Chronic Effects of Workplace Hazards
Workplace hazards can have serious effects on the body, both immediate and long-term, referred to as acute and chronic.
Acute effects appear immediately after exposure to high levels of a toxic substance and may be treatable.
The sudden collapse of a worker after being exposed to carbon monoxide, for example, is an acute effect.
Chronic effects become apparent only after many years and are not treatable.
They can occur when the body attempts to repair itself or compensate for acute effects of a substance.
For example, cancer is a chronic effect, as is the lung scarring caused by silica dust or the hearing damage caused by excessive noise.
Chronic disease becomes evident only after severe damage has occurred.
Exposure limits have been developed for various hazardous materials to protect workers, but they should not be treated as a fine line between safe and unsafe workplaces.
Not all individuals react in the same manner to the same amount of harmful materials.
The levels of workers’ exposures should be reduced to the lowest practical level achievable. Efforts to reduce workers’ exposures should start at half the exposure limit.
Want to learn more about chemical safety?
Check out our chemical safety online course!
Have a question?
Our team of safety specialists is here to help answer any questions you might have. Fill out the form below to learn more about this topic or get recommendations on equipment, services or training.