Under Work Health and Safety regulations, PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) must ensure that the health of workers who are at risk of harm from ongoing exposure to chemical substances is monitored. This is because chemicals such as disinfectants, detergents, fuels and solvents all have the capacity to cause health problems if used or handled incorrectly or for prolonged periods of time.
According to SafeWork Australia, the economic cost of occupational skin diseases amounts to over $30 million annually. In addition, a long-term review of data from a dermatology clinic showed that approximately three-quarters of patients referred to the clinic were found to have contracted dermatitis from their work occupation.
Of course chemical handling and exposure is not all that common in church environments, but it is still important to use care and provide training to all employees and volunteers who use chemical substances in the course of their duties. The types of jobs and tasks that could involve the use of chemicals in a worship centre might include café work, cleaning, gardening, renovation, and maintenance.
Chemical substances can cause harm through:
- Direct contact with the skin.
- Absorption through the eyes or nose (from eye-rubbing, for example).
- Breathing in of fumes, vapours and dust.
- Open wound entry.
- Accidental ingestion – for example from touching the mouth, eating or smoking after handling chemicals.
Types of harm may include:
- Chemical burns.
- Allergic reaction.
- Respiratory problems.
- Toxic substance absorption.
Chemical safety training
Work practices and training need to be put in place to minimize the risk of illness occurring. This includes providing instructions for storage, handling, disposal, First Aid, and fire and emergency procedures. In some cases personal protective equipment such as disposable gloves and dust masks should be provided, depending on the level of risk involved. As an employer it’s also vital that your workers’ compensation insurance is kept up-to-date at all times in case of accident or injury to employees.
Safety Data Sheets
In cases of hazardous chemicals a Safety Data Sheet should be supplied by the manufacturer. This provides information on identity of the chemical, health and physiochemical hazards, and procedures for safe storage, handling, disposal, and emergencies.
For more information on the safe use of chemicals, go to SafeWork Australia.
Written by Tess OliverTags: employees, health & safety, volunteers