The undeniable star product of 2020 was hand sanitizer (though toilet paper was a close runner up), and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. As people head back to work, many facilities buy hand sanitizer by the gallon. And although this liquid gold keeps your employees safe, it also poses a considerable risk to their safety. Why? Because nothing in life is simple, and don’t we all need a little more danger in our lives?
More seriously, hand sanitizer is flammable and can irritate if it gets in your eyes.
The container holding your hand sanitizer should have the appropriate GHS and HMIS labels, but they are useless if your employees aren’t familiar with these cryptic hieroglyphics. Your crew must understand the dangers posed by storing and moving large quantities of hand sanitizer so they don’t get injured or die trying to use this life-saving product.
Breaking down GHS and HMIS
As a safety manager, you’re likely familiar with both GHS and HMIS, but we’re dropping this here if you need a refresher. (Wink.) GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System, which despite its name, is not a safety-based a cappella group. In 2003, the United Nations adopted the GHS for classification and labeling of chemicals. It covers various health, physical, and environmental hazards and is meant to break down language barriers and governmental regulations to promote a unified safety message worldwide. So harmonious, right?
HMIS or the Hazardous Materials Identification System is a numerical hazard rating developed by the American Coatings Association to help businesses comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standards. It helps identify the dangers posed by flammable and reactive chemicals.
Though you should cover these letters, numbers, colors, and symbols in safety training sessions, nobody’s perfect, and your team will need reminders out on the floor. To keep employees safe while you’re housing an ocean’s worth of hand sanitizer, consider ordering these safety posters as soon as your crew is back on the floor.
Promote the basics with a HazCom safety poster
Any time you’re dealing with hazardous chemicals, there are several precautions your staff should take. Ensure they understand how to store, move, and use flammable or dangerous chemicals, including hand sanitizer. Slap this HazChem safety poster where everyone can read it to ensure your safety plans—and building—don’t go up in flames.
Interpreting the HMIS identifiers
There are several components to the Hazardous Materials Identification System, including colors, numbers, and letters. Make sure your employees know how to translate those indicators into actionable safety instructions, including which PPE is required to handle the material. These HMIS posters should help.
Get to know your GHS symbols
GHS symbols are more straightforward than HMIS, but they are equally crucial for your team to learn. Though there are symbol-specific posters to use near your supply of hand sanitizer, it’s a good idea to hang GHS pictogram translation posters throughout your workplace to ensure your employees know that an exclamation point does not designate really exciting products and that the man with a star in his chest identifies effects that cause health hazards, not products that help you reach a state of enlightenment.
No, we’re not super excited about a fire or even warning you that a fire is nearby. The fire and exclamation point GHS symbols promote awareness of flammable materials and chemicals that can cause serious health effects. Both should be present on your barrels of hand sanitizer. To further encourage employee safety, you may want to hang safety posters explaining these two symbols right near your hand sanitizer, leaving no room for misinterpretation.
Hand sanitizer signs
If you’re going to go through all the effort to train employees on how to store near-dangerous amounts of hand sanitizer, you better make sure they’re using it. Encourage the use of hand sanitizer with these signs.