Each year, far too many workers are injured or killed by workplace accidents and occupational disease. In 2014 alone, 82,321 workers had an accident at work. Another 57 died following a work accident, and 107 died from an occupational disease. Fortunately, the number of workplace accidents and occupational diseases has fallen in the last five years. So has the number of related deaths. But we still have a long way to go to make people more aware of this very present problem.
One cause of workplace accidents and occupational disease is the handling of chemicals, which is associated with a number of health and safety risks—not only for those who directly handle the chemicals themselves, but for those around them as well.
There are three main ways in which people can be exposed to chemicals:
• Inhalation: smoke, vapour, dust
• Skin contact: splashes, contact with a soaked cloth
• Swallowing: putting soiled hands in the mouth
Chemicals may be accidentally inhaled for a number of reasons, such as when concentrated products are improperly mixed, because this can cause them to release toxic gases. This type of exposure can lead to lung damage as well as to asthma, pneumonia, hypersensitivity, bronchial hyperreactivity, pneumoconiosis and even cancer.
Contact with the skin can occur when a product splashes or when someone touches a cloth that has been soaked in the product. This type of exposure can cause skin irritation, ulcers, eczema, contact dermatitis (itchy rash, pain, redness, swelling) or burns.
Chemicals may be accidentally swallowed in several ways, such as when people put soiled hands in their mouth. Although this type of exposure is the least common, it can result in the most severe poisoning.
Chemicals can cause either immediate or delayed damage to the body. Immediate damage can lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, chest tightness, loss of consciousness and even death. Delayed damage can occur anywhere from several days to several years after the prolonged or repeated exposure to a chemical. Lung cancer and chronic lung damage are two good examples of delayed damage.
Using a dilution system will help to prevent accidents in the workplace and will keep those who handle cleaning chemicals much safer. It will also allow companies to increase workplace safety and to reduce costs.