How to Safely Handle and Store Chemical Drums
Comprehensive rules and guidelines on handling chemical drums are in place by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. These drums typically contain materials that are radioactive, toxic, flammable, explosive or corrosive. Anyone handling them should use proper techniques, equipment and protection.
When handling chemical drums, the first point of action should be to determine the contents. A visual inspection will allow operators to gain useful information before working with the drums. When drums are reused, they often don't reflect their true contents, in which case it is wise to assume that they contain toxic materials.
The first things to look out for are words, marks or symbols that indicates whether the drum contains hazardous materials. Additionally, operators should inspect the drum to determine whether it contains discarded lab chemicals or reagents. Look for signs of drum damage such as corrosion, leaks or dust, or any signs indicating pressure such as bulging or swelling.
Adopting sound ergonomics practices (reducing the amount of wasted motion and strain by adjusting the job to suit the person) is essential to lowering the probability of occupational injury. Operators should also know the proper lifting techniques. Extensive training in using the protective equipment and machines involved can decrease injury and accident. The drum grappler is the preferred method of moving chemical drums. It keeps operators far away from the chemical drum. Should the drum show signs of a leak, the operator can rotate it and quickly place it in an overpack.
Shock-sensitive and explosive drums should be only be handled if necessary and with extreme caution. All non-essential personnel should leave the area. The same goes for drums containing laboratory waste. Again, the use of a grappler is suggested. A chemist should examine and classify the waste once moved. The bottles inside should be separated without opening them and packed with absorption and cushioning materials to prevent excessive movement.
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