Safe usage of hazardous household products
- Follow the directions on the label.
- Use proper safety equipment.
- Have a working fire extinguisher available.
- Wear protective clothing as necessary.
- Post emergency numbers near your telephone.
- Leave products in their original container with labels intact and visible.
- Do not mix products unless directed to do so by the label’s directions.
- Use only what is needed. Using twice as much product does not mean twice the desired results.
- If pregnant, avoid any potential exposure to toxic chemicals. Many toxic products have not been tested for their effects on unborn children.
- Avoid wearing soft contact lenses. They can absorb product vapors and damage your eyes.
- Use products in well-ventilated areas. Work outdoors whenever possible. If working indoors, open windows and use an exhaust fan to blow the air outside rather than re-circulating it indoors. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, take a break and go outside.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while using hazardous products. Traces of hazardous chemicals can be carried from hand to mouth. Smoking can also start a fire if the product is flammable.
- Clean up after using hazardous products.
- Seal products and refasten all childproof caps.
- Do not leave hazardous products unattended.
The effects of chemicals on human health and the environment depend on the dose, concentration, duration and frequency, and route of exposure. People have different reactions to chemicals, some reacting to small doses and concentrations, while others require a larger dose or concentration to react.
Hazardous materials may enter the body through:
- Ingestion: To prevent accidental ingestion of a hazardous material, avoid putting anything in your mouth while working with hazardous materials. Always keep food, drinks, or other items that could come into contact with your mouth (e.g., cigarettes) away from the work area to avoid contamination. Always wash your hands before handling food or touching your face or eyes. Never place hazardous materials in food or beverage containers.
- Inhalation: To ensure adequate ventilation, work outside whenever possible. If you must work inside, use a fan to direct air away from the work area and towards an open window. Always ensure that you have adequate ventilation. If you can smell the hazardous material you are working with, you might need to use a mask or respirator for adequate protection. Be aware that not all hazardous chemicals have an odor (e.g., carbon monoxide, methyl alcohol).
- Absorption: Hazardous material can enter your body from contact with your skin. Avoid splashing and wear protective clothing.
There are two approaches to eliminating accidents:
- Eliminate unsafe conditions. Work areas and equipment should be examined to determine if any unsafe conditions exist (e.g. improper ventilation or lighting, leaking containers of hazardous material). Any unsafe condition should be corrected before beginning work in the area.
- Reduce unsafe acts. Working in a safe environment requires you to examine those actions you control while being aware of those situations beyond your control. Care must be taken to ensure that any actions taken to protect or reduce accidents in one area do not cause or set up the conditions for accidents in some other area.
Protect Yourself with the Proper Equipment
- Clothing: To avoid direct contact of chemicals with your skin, choose clothing that both covers bare skin and provides a barrier for protection against contact.
- Ear protection: Ear plugs or ear muffs to protect your ears from high volume noise.
- Eye Protection: Select goggles or safety glasses to prevent liquids or fumes from getting into your eyes.
- Foot: Boots made of PVC or heavy rubber will protect again chemical spills.
- Hand: Gloves made of the proper material to protect against the type of chemical you are using. Consult a salesperson at your local hardware store.
- Respiratory: Wearing a face mask or using a respirator can help prevent against inhaling fumes.
When working with hazardous products, always read and follow the directions on the label. Do not mix products unless instructed to do so by the directions on the label. To prevent fumes from escaping, keep all containers closed when working with the hazardous material.
If the product is flammable and/or explosive, use and store away from any sources of heat, flames, sparks, or ignitions. Gas pilot lights, hot water tanks, lit cigarettes and cigars, light switches, and garage door openers can all be ignition sources. Fuel, oxygen, and heat are required for combustion to occur. If you remove any of these three elements a fire can be extinguished.
Place all solvent covered rags in a sealed container after use. If you clean them yourself, wash the rags separately in a washing machine with a full water level of hot water and detergent. Rinse the washing machine thoroughly after cleaning the rags. Line dry the rags rather than using a dryer; the high heat of a dryer can ignite any flammable vapors remaining in the rags.
Keep a working fire extinguisher readily available in your home and work area. Make sure the extinguisher you have is appropriate for the fire you are attempting to extinguish.