ESD 112 Insurance Programs Safety Talks

Know the Chemicals You Work With

In a school setting, chemicals can be found in many locations including the school office, print shop, science classroom, custodial closet, art classroom, kitchen, bus garage and the maintenance shop. All chemicals have the potential to cause you harm. To protect yourself, take the time to learn about the chemical products you work with.
  • Information is available about the chemicals found in your school district. Read the label on the container carefully. It will give you important information about the chemical, including first aid advice.
  • For more detailed information, read the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS). If you do not understand the SDS, ask your supervisor to go over it with you or call the ESD 112 Risk Management team.
  • Store chemicals according to the manufacturer's instructions. Chemicals should be in appropriate containers, clearly marked, and kept where children cannot access them. Store all materials as directed by the SDS.
  • Use all products solely for their intended purpose. Don’t, for example, use solvents to clean your hands, or gasoline to wipe down equipment. Don’t mix chemicals. Certain combinations might cause toxic gases (mixing bleach and ammonia), fires or explosions.
  • Secondary containers into which hazardous chemicals are transferred must be properly labeled with the chemical content and the appropriate hazard warning(s) that are found on the original product container. Examples of hazard warnings are flammable, corrosive, poison, and irritant.
  • Always use required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—and inspect it carefully before each use to make sure it’s safe to use. Replace worn out or damaged PPE; it won’t provide adequate protection.
  • Make sure you follow all instructions and safety precautions. When the label states "Use only in a well-ventilated area", make sure to follow that recommendation. If the instructions recommend dilution before use, dilute to the proper concentration. Consider installing a dilution station that automatically dispenses and mixes the right amount of products for the job.
  • Know which chemicals are flammable and keep them away from all sources of ignition. This includes matches, electrical circuits, welding operations, sparks from mechanical processes and pilot lights.
  • Only school or district-supplied or approved cleaning products should be used by staff. Green cleaning products are recommended. One source of green cleaner information is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safer Choice* website
  • Wash hands after handling chemicals and before eating, drinking, or smoking.
  • Become familiar with what to do in chemical emergencies. Know the proper procedure to clean up chemicals when they spill. Know what to do if chemicals are involved in a fire.
  • Know the location of and procedures to use eyewash and safety shower stations in case you or someone else is exposed to chemicals. Know what the first aid procedures are for overexposure.
  • Vector Solutions (SafeSchools) offers two courses to assist in chemical safety training: Hazard Communications: Right to Understand and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
If you know the safety precautions for working with workplace chemicals, you can protect yourself from harm. Take time to become informed about the substances you work with, the correct PPE to wear, the right way to handle chemicals, and what to do in case of chemical emergencies. And remember these same principles apply to chemicals you and your family use at home!
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