Any chemical, in either gas, liquid or solid form, that has the potential to cause harm is referred to as a hazardous or dangerous chemical.
A variety of chemicals may be stored onboard and used for cleaning or servicing the boat. For example, petrol, diesel, LPG, hydraulic oils, grease, degreasers, paints, thinners and chemicals to treat Melanosis or blackspot in prawns may all be used.
In addition, certain chemicals may be generated such as fumes during welding, dust during sanding or grinding, carbon monoxide gas from a poorly vented engine exhaust or hydrogen sulphide from rotting fish.
Some of these chemicals, if you are exposed to them, may be dangerous to your health. Some chemicals may also have physical chemical hazards, e.g. flammable, explosive or have additional hazards if they are mixed or stored with incompatible chemicals. Chemicals can also have an adverse effect on the environment if they are used, stored or disposed of incorrectly.
Chemicals can enter the body via:
- Inhalation: breathing in the chemical.
- Absorption: through skin contact or a splash in the eye.
- Ingestion: via contaminated food or hands, or
- Injection: when a sharp object such as a hook or needle punctures the skin.
What To Do
Identify what chemicals you use. Collect information about each substance and what harm it can do and how it can happen. The most important sources of information on the hazards are the chemical label and the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Chemical manufacturers and suppliers are legally required to provide SDSs which give information on the chemicals' safety and health risks and tell how to store and use the chemical safely.
Look how the work is done and consider how workers are exposed to the chemical or how a chemical may be generated. Think about how the job could be done differently to avoid exposure. Where it is not possible to eliminate or isolate the chemical hazard, you should minimize exposure to it.
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