Handling Hazardous Materials In Construction

July 7, 2023

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Cecilia De La Rosa

Handling Hazardous Materials in Construction

Alert sign

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. One of the potential hazards that isn’t talked about much is handling hazardous materials on a construction site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) hazard communication standard states that employers are responsible for providing information about chemicals and toxic substances and protective measures workers can take. Often this takes the form of a hazardous materials communication program that helps ensure that everyone is informed about the dangers of the materials they may come into contact with. Before developing this policy, employers must know what materials are hazardous and how to properly store, transport, and use them.

What materials are considered hazardous?

When working on a project, workers may come across a variety of materials and substances that could be considered hazardous. Here are some examples of hazardous materials in construction:

  • Asbestos
  • Lead (found in paint and pipe)
  • Silica dust
  • Fuels (gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane)
  • Concrete additives
  • Solvents
  • Paints and coatings
  • Wood treatments
  • Pesticides
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Refrigerant
  • Mold

There are many more hazardous materials and chemicals out there. The dangers present will depend on the work environment and the nature of the work being performed.

How to store hazardous materials

To determine the correct way to store hazardous materials and chemicals, start by reading the manufacturer’s suggested storage instructions. Make sure that any storage solutions you employ will meet the needs of each individual material/chemical. Also make sure that different materials/chemicals can be stored together, as doing so may increase the volatility or create the potential for an adverse reaction.

Here are some additional suggestions for storing hazardous materials or chemicals:

  • Limit access – Store them in a locked closet/room/cabinet to make sure that only workers who need to access them can. Unauthorized access can increase the risk to worker safety, especially if specialized training is required to know how to handle the materials correctly.
  • Properly label containers – Make sure that each container is properly labeled with the contents and any potential hazards. If products/materials must be transferred into a different container, make sure the correct information is on the outside for quick identification and reference.
  • Keep safety information close – Products that contain chemicals come with material safety data sheets (SDS) that contain information on the contents of the product and what to do if workers are exposed to it. This information should be kept on site where all workers can access it in case of accidental exposure. Employers can subscribe to services that provide this information without having to store paper copies.