When working with corrosives, you probably have several questions, and having a few reservations about interacting with these chemicals is very understandable. Naturally, your number one question is how to work with these substances safely, which will be the focus of this post.
Substitution. Obviously, you would want to work with the least hazardous materials possible so you may be tempted to substitute one chemical for another that’s less corrosive. However, you must understand that corrosion is only one of the properties and there simply may not be a viable replacement due to other factors and the nature of the task you have set with the substance. Therefore, it’s imperative for you to obtain the SDSs for all possible substitute candidates and perform an in-depth examination of ALL the safety hazards before even considering switching one dangerous chemical for a potentially more dangerous one.
Ventilation. Ventilation could possibly be the highest-priority safety measure, even more so than the gloves, aprons and masks you wear to protect yourself. Since many experiments require introducing heating to a corrosive, it will turn to gas and fill the air with toxic vapors, fumes, mists, even airborne dusts, all of which are far more dangerous and deadly than the liquid form of these corrosives. The amount and type of ventilation necessary is based on many factors, such as the nature of the work, amount of materials used, size of the work area as well as how the chemicals themselves are stored, handled, used, and disposed of.
Storage. Proper storage is every bit as necessary as handling the materials themselves. This is especially important for corrosives which, well, corrode and could destroy containers of inferior construction. It’s always a safe bet for you to store chemicals in the container recommended by the manufacturer. In general, you should store corrosives separately and away from processing, handling and work areas when not in use. Walls, floors and shelves in a storage area should be made of corrosion-resistant materials along with all handling equipment. You should also make sure that firefighting and spill clean-up tools are conveniently stored for quick access, as well as labeling a storage area with the proper caution signs to minimize the potential for accidents.
Temperature is also a crucial factor, the most dangerous scenario being exposing a substance to any source of heat such as sunlight, boilers, steam pipes and the like. Rapid temperature changes are even more dangerous, as they can cause a storage container to collapse or leak. In general, store corrosives in dry, cool areas which are isolated from any potential hazard. As always, you should read the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe storage and follow instructions to the letter.
Handling. When dispensing corrosives, finish all the dispensing of one material before moving to another and ensure containers are closed after dispensing. Minimize any exposure to air, especially when transferring from larger containers to smaller ones. Pumps exist for most sizes and types of storage containers, especially metal drums commonly used to move a large quantity of a corrosive to a workplace. If needed, always slowly add the corrosive to cold water, not the other way around.
Personal Safety. Of course, you should always wear protective garments such as gloves, aprons, goggles and the like in direct proportion to the likeliness of skin contact with the corrosive in-use. Once again, the MSDSs should provide this information.
Eye protection is just as necessary and you should always wear goggles, particularly when dealing with airborne chemicals. Of course, you should also always wear a face mask to avoid breathing in any fumes or vapors.
That just about covers the basics, and by simply following some simple guidelines the chances of injury are reduced, so be prepared and use some common sense. Click here to learn more safety precautions.