How to reduce the risk of an accident when decanting chemicals in the workplace?

May 2020

Worksafe has been drawing attention to a case where a NZ firm was fined over $200,000 after a worker was splashed in the eye with a concentrated cleaning chemical while using it.  The injury was severe enough that the worker lost his eye.

The facts are that there are thousands of factories in NZ that use concentrated chemicals in their process, and a lot of these chemicals are classified as corrosive to both skin and eyes in their concentrated state.  Once the chemical is diluted down to its ready-to-use form, this hazard is greatly minimised – normally to a point that the hazard can be controlled by ensuring the correct PPE is always worn.

But what about when you are transferring the chemical, or diluting it or decanting it or swapping out suction tubes from an empty container of concentrate to a full one?  As the old proverb says “There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip” – there are many points when performing these simple tasks could potentially bring workers into direct contact with concentrated chemicals.

So how to minimise this risk, or can it even be eliminated completely? The answer is “Yes” – in almost all cases this risk of workers being directly exposed to concentrate chemical can be eliminated.  This applies to both chemicals used in open areas and chemicals used primarily in CIP circuits.

There are several ways of achieving this, depending on a factory’s individual needs.  These range from closed loop dispensing connections with built in suction tubes, to dry-disconnect valves that are physically impossible to use incorrectly, and which safeguard workers when transferring concentrate chemical from a container to a vessel or diluting it through a pumping system or packing down to smaller containers, or changing out empty containers to full ones.

Additional safeguards involve colour coded connections and tags to ensure incompatible chemicals aren’t hooked up together.

If you would like to implement a system like this for your factory, give us a call to discuss the option.