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Chemical Solutions

Published: 28th Feb 2014 in OSA Magazine

Chemical protection, appropriate PPE and chemical safety legislations

Chemical incidents can be of various types and range from the need for minor first aid through to disastrous accidents involving toxic, flammable or reactive hazardous chemicals. 

The effects of any minor or major incident can mean the loss of life, or injury to some body part such as the hands, eyes, a skin burn or respiratory damage. For chemical protection of the body from the above incidents, the use of specialised personal protective equipment (PPE) is very important. The specifications for use of a particular kind of PPE are covered under various national and international safety standards such as those outlined by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), or OISD (Oil Industry Safety Directorate). 

Vapours, gases and particulates from hazardous substances’ response activities place personnel at risk. For this reason, response personnel must wear appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment whenever they are handling chemicals. The more that is known about the hazards at a release site, the easier it becomes to select PPE. 

Hierarchy of controls first

In industrial environments where dermal exposure to hazardous chemicals can occur, it’s worth considering the hierarchy of control first; that is, engineering, administrative, and work practise controls which can minimise a worker’s contact with chemicals. 

Where these controls are impossible, the use of chemical protective clothing can minimise the risk of exposure and provide a last line of defence.

Whether the job is performing asbestos abatement, installing insulation, or handling industrial chemicals, chemical protective PPE help reduce worker chemical exposure while he or she is performing a job. Being intimately acquainted with the task their workers are doing helps safety managers make the best decisions for selecting apparel. It’s just another way of helping hazardous work become less hazardous for the worker.

The purpose of PPE is to shield or isolate individuals from the chemical, physical, and biological hazards that he or she may encounter during hazardous chemical operations. The use of PPE depends on the type of hazard and type of protection required. The hazards can be divided into following categories:

Heat radiation or skin burns/fire or skin irritation
Fracture or fall protection
Splashing of hazardous chemicals
Electric shocks
Inhalation/respiratory hazards
Based on the nature of various chemical hazards, the protection can be categorised as below:
Respiratory protection
Protective coveralls
Head protection
Face protection
Ear protection
Foot and leg protection
Eye wash stations and emergency showers for use in the event of an accident

Protect for the task

Any kind of need for protection depends on the nature of the process a person is engaged with, the nature of the material being handled, and the working conditions. The protectionis categorised into four types:

Level A protection is required when the greatest potential for exposure to a hazard exists, and when the greatest level of skin, respiratory, and eye protection is required.

Level B protection is required under circumstances requiring the highest level of respiratory protection, with lesser levels of skin protection.

Level C protection is required when the concentration and types of airborne substances are known, and the criteria for using air purifying respirators is met.

Level D protection is the minimum protection required. Level D protection may be sufficient when no contaminants are present or work operations preclude splashes, immersion, or the potential for unexpected inhalation or contact with hazardous levels of chemicals.

An industrial example

If a person is working on a melting and casting furnace of a non ferrous metal industry, the furnace will be operated at a temperature of 450° C. The hazards include a wide variety of elements such as hot metal spillage, blasts in the furnace and toxic gases. 

In the first instance the operator should be guided to have level A protection, which would involve body protection, a gas mask, gloves and goggles which would all comply with process conditions.

Selection of chemical protection 

When considering possibilities for the selection of chemical protection, at the very minimum the following questions should be resolved:

Discuss what types, where and when PPE is used in particular chemical operations
Discuss how and from where to obtain PPE for particular chemical operations
Discuss how to wear, adjust, and use PPE for particular chemical operations
Discuss proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the PPE for particular chemical operations
Document the use of the PPE as per OSHA format

A guide for evaluating the performance of chemical protection PPE should be prepared as a matter of course.


Complying with chemical safety legislations for gas, vapour and dust has become extremely important. This has happened because of various incidents in the past such as Bhopal, Piper Alpha and the Deepwater Horizon disasters. The various worldwide chemical safety legislations include:

1. REACH – REACH is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use (EC 1907/2006). It deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of chemical substances. The law came into force on June 1, 2007.

The aim of REACH is to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances. At the same time, REACH aims to enhance innovation and the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. 

The benefits of the REACH system will come gradually, as more and more substances are phased into REACH. The REACH regulation places greater responsibility on industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. 

Manufacturers and importers are required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. 

This agency acts as the central point in the REACH system. It manages the databases necessary to operate the system, coordinates the in depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and is building up a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information.

2. COMAH – This is the Control of Major Accident Hazards and is provided by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It requires that businesses “take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances, and limit the consequences to people and the environment of any major accidents which do occur.” 

The principal aim of the regulations is to reduce the risks of potential major accidents, such as the Flixborough disaster, that are associated with the handling of hazardous substances. 

The regulations operate on two levels depending on the establishment’s status – this will be either ‘lower tier’ or ‘upper tier’, and determined by inventory. Lower tier establishments are required to document a Major Accident Prevention Policy which should be signed off by the managing director. A top tier COMAH establishment is required to produce a full safety report which demonstrates that all necessary measures have been taken to minimise risks posed by the site with regard to the environment, and local populations. 

The penalty for unauthorised storage can be severe and companies unsure of whether the COMAH regulations apply to them should seek advice from trade associations and local health and safety inspectors.

3. DSEAR – The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations put into effect requirements from two European Directives: the Chemical Agents Directive (98/24/EC) and the Explosive Atmospheres Directive (99/92/EC). Dangerous substances can put peoples’ safety at risk from fire and explosion. DSEAR puts duties on employers and the self-employed to protect people from risks to their safety from fires, explosions and similar events in the workplace. This includes members of the public who may be put at risk by work activity.

What does DSEAR require?

Employers must:

Find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the fire and explosion risks are
Put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
Put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
Make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
Identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas

What are dangerous substances?

Dangerous substances are any substances used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations and dusts from foodstuffs.

4. ATEX – This is an Explosive Atmospheres Directive. It consists of two EU directives describing what equipment is allowed in a work environment with an explosive atmosphere. ATEX derives its name from the French title of the 94/9/EC directive Atmospheres Explosives.

Employers must classify areas where hazardous explosive atmospheres may occur into zones. The classification given to a particular zone, and its size and location, depends on the likelihood of an explosive atmosphere occurring and its persistence if it does.

Areas are classified into zones – 0, 1, 2 for gas, vapour and mist and 20, 21, 22 for dust. They must be protected from effective sources of ignition. Equipment and protective systems intended to be used in zoned areas must meet the requirements of the directive. 

Zone 0 and 20 require Category 1 marked equipment; zone 1 and 21 require Category 2 marked equipment; and zone 2 and 22 require Category 3 marked equipment. Zone 0 and 20 are the zones with the highest risk of an explosive atmosphere being present. 

The aim of directive 94/9/EC is to allow the free trade of ATEX equipment and protective systems within the EU by removing the need for separate testing and documentation for each member state.

The regulations apply to all equipment intended for use in explosive atmospheres, whether electrical or mechanical, including protective systems. There are two categories of equipment: I for mining and II for surface industries. Manufacturers who apply its provisions and affix the CE marking and the Ex marking are able to sell their equipment anywhere within the European Union without any further requirements being applied with respect to the risks covered being applied. 

The directive covers a large range of equipment, potentially including equipment used on fixed offshore platforms, in petrochemical plants, mines, flour mills and other areas where a potentially explosive atmosphere may be present.

In very broad terms, there are three preconditions for the directive to apply. The equipment must a) have its own effective source of ignition; b) be intended for use in a potentially explosive atmosphere (air mixtures); and c) be under normal atmospheric conditions.

The directive also covers components essential for the safe use of safety devices directly contributing to the safe use of the equipment in scope. These latter devices may be outside the potentially explosive environment.

Published: 28th Feb 2014 in OSA Magazine


Sanjeev Paruthi

Mr Sanjeev Paruthi is a postgraduate Chemical Engineer from Punjab University Chandigarh (India), and is presently associated with a multinational EPC Company as its HSE and Process Safety Engineer at Gurgaon-India.

His experience of six years comprises of working with Hindustan Zinc Limited, Tata Coffee Limited and with leading consulting and Training Company in the domain of Process Safety/Risk Management. He also holds PG Diploma in Business Management from ICFAI. He is also pursuing an Advance Diploma in Industrial Fire Safety Management from Mohali Punjab, India.

Mr Paruthi has wide range of consulting and training experience for working with Chemical, Fine Chemical, Refinery, Petrochemical Storage Installations, paints and allied chemical industries. He has also designed Fire Prevention and Detection systems for Refinery in his current company. He has led various HAZOP and HAZID sessions and prepared various HSE documents under a refinery project.

Mr Paruthi has also conducted Operational Process Safety Studies.

His technical expertise is in the following domain areas:
• Quantitative Risk Assessment, HAZOP Studies, Process Hazard Analysis
• Fire Risk Assessment
• Process Safety Training and Development
• Process Safety Management Studies and Audits
• SIL Studies
• Hazardous Area Classification
• Static Hazards Evaluation
• Lockout Tagout
• Chemical Handling Safety (Gas/Vapour/Dust)

Sanjeev Paruthi




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