Recently, many staff members have been injured while handling pool chemicals. Most of these incidents involved granular chlorine, but tablets and liquid forms were also involved. Other events involved cleaning with known and unknown chemicals.
Fortunately for those involved, none of the outcomes were as serious as they could have been. Irreparable damage to lungs and/or eyes could easily have been the outcome. All of the incidents were during routine, frequently done tasks:
Gaseous chlorine (CL2) is an extreme irritant that can cause serious tissue damage – it combines with moisture in the respiratory tract, mucous membranes, or eyes to form hydrochloric acid. Just 15 parts per million (ppm) will immediately irritate the throat; a short exposure to 50 ppm is dangerous; to 1,000 ppm it can be fatal.
(often calcium hypochlorite)
This has dust that is highly caustic to mucous membranes and eyes. Hydrochloric acid forms when the dust interacts with the moisture present in eye or respiratory tissues with results similar to those above. Just opening the container created enough airflow to blow this caustic dust into the eyes of some of those recently injured.
(generally sodium hypochlorite)
This is an irritant that can do damage similar to that caused by dust or gaseous chlorine compounds, though generally not as disastrous because it is usually in 10-12% (pool chemicals) or 4-6% (household bleach) concentrations. Though not necessarily life-changing, such injuries are still painful.
These are an OSHA violation – statutes require all containers to be clearly labeled unless used by a single individual during a continuous work period and disposed of immediately thereafter. Unlabeled containers should be opened only with appropriate respiratory and eye protection and disposed of promptly and properly. Simply opening an unlabeled container can cause harm as several of our claimants have learned.
Chlorine products are hazardous – they should never be treated casually. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for all of these chemicals specify the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), yet none of those whose incidents triggered this alert used appropriate PPE. All employees should be trained according to your Hazard Communication Policy.
Pool chemicals are common and thus often treated as harmless – they are not! Always use the appropriate PPE. Be prepared for the unexpected, not devastated by it.
Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.