Friday, September 09, 2011

Chemical Accidents Sickens 54 in Bohemia, NY

Chemicals in flasks (including Ammonium hydrox...Image via Wikipedia
Just before the Hurricane, the above headline was in Newsday, on August 19, 2011, regarding a chemical accident where two cleaning chemicals were accidently mixed causing 54 workers to become ill and requiring some of them to be hospitalized.  Workers were treated for symptoms including convulsions, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting.  Unfortunately, the report does not discuss the specific chemicals that were mixed.  It does mention that the company was using a new chemical for cleaning and did not fully purge the old cleaning chemical out of the system.
This incident highlights the importance of providing training to staff when a new chemical is added to the facility.  This will ensure the hazards of the new chemical will be understood and any problems that may occur with mixing chemicals are fully understood.  The most important part of this training is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).  The MSDS is created by the manufacturer to warn the users of its chemicals about the dangers of the chemical, the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed, first aid necessary if exposed, the path of exposure, and other important information.  The training on the new chemical should be on the specifics of handling the chemical including any PPE needing to be used when using the chemical, the first aid procedures should an exposure occur, proper storing of the chemical, and any other chemicals that should be avoided or prevented from coming into contact with the new chemical.  Maybe if this training was done the individuals responsible for purging the system would have been more cautious.
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