9 Common Chemical Hazards in the Workplace (And How to Avoid Them!)


Did you know that 3000 people die every day at work?

Workplace fatalities and injuries are on the rise. Some are caused by employers’ negligence, others by mistakes, and some by chemical hazards.

A hazardous chemical is any substance which can affect your health or the environment. The chemicals are found in many occupational products, and this means that you may become a victim without knowing.

To create awareness, this guide discusses the common workplace chemical hazards in the workplace. Read on!

1. Lead

Lead is a common hazardous chemical in many companies. The primary activities which produce it include spray-painting, plumbing, and glazing pottery.

It is absorbed into the body by swallowing (mainly if you have not washed your hands) or breathing the lead fume.

After absorption, lead can accumulate in your bones for years without you experiencing any side effects. With time, you may experience mild to severe effects which include infertility, kidney disease, and brain damage.


You can avoid lead at work by washing your hands regularly. You should also disinfect the workplaces and all the equipment before you touch them.

If lead is one of your raw materials at work, you should wear protective wear and observe your employer’s health instructions.

2. Paint Fumes

Paints are common chemical hazards in workplaces. They look harmless, but the truth is that they have both short term and long-term effects on the body.

The short-term effects include irritation, headache, dizziness, and nausea. Extended exposure to fresh paints can cause allergies, kidney problems, and increase congenital abnormalities.


You can protect yourself from paint fumes by using the water-based paints since they are harmless. Also, you should ensure the painted room is well ventilated and stay outside if possible.

And if you are the painter, wear the right protective gear and take regular breaks during painting. Don’t forget to read the painting instructions well and get the paints from reputable suppliers only.

3. Pesticides

Pesticides are common in agricultural firms. They can also be present in other industries when they are used to control pests in the workplace.

The effects of pesticides range widely depending on their types, concentration, and other factors. The effects can be more severe to people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses.


Wash or disinfect your hands well if you touch the pesticides. Also, embrace the biological methods of pest control to reduce the use of harmful pesticides.

Ventilate the fumigated rooms well, too, to reduce the effects of the pesticides in the body.

4. Petroleum Products

Petroleum products include gasoline, fuel and oil. They are common in workplaces; hence, it’s hard to avoid their usage. The best way to protect yourself is to learn how to handle them.

Too much exposure to petroleum products causes skin irritation, burns, and infections. Accidental swallowing can cause dysfunction in bowel movements or death. They might even cause a fire if you don’t keep them well.


Protect your hands when handling petroleum. Seek medical help immediately when you consume a petroleum product.

5. Asbestos

More than 500,000 workers handle asbestos fibers every day at work. Asbestos is strong, durable, and is resistant to heat. Its strong physical and chemical features make it an ideal construction and manufacturing material.

The common chemicals found in asbestos include tremolite, crocidolite, amosite, chrysotile, and many more. Health experts link these chemicals with gastrointestinal cancer when swallowed. Its other health effects include asbestosis and lung cancer.


Asbestos is banned in many states and you should avoid it. Don’t hesitate to undertake training programs to understand the HazCom basics, and the right preventive measures for common workplace chemical hazards.

6. Adhesives and Sealants

Glues and other adhesives are inevitable in workplaces. They help in binding files and other office tools together. However, these sealants are made of dangerous chemicals that might bring serious health concerns.

Others are flammable too, which means that they can burn your workplace if you keep them near fire zones.


Improve the ventilation systems in the office to prevent the effect of the sealants. Also, wear protective gear when handling adhesives substances. Avoid eating or drinking in the office desks if you have not disinfected the surfaces or washed your hands.

7. Cleaning Agents

Common cleaning agents at work include bleaching agents, disinfectants, toilet soaps and so on. Some of these cleaners contain ammonia, chloroform, chlorine, and other hazardous chemicals.

When you use them, they penetrate the body and can cause skin irritation and other problems. They can also cause health issues when you accidentally swallow them.


Use the cleaning agents which have fewer chemicals. If you must use those highly concentrated agents, read the instructions well regarding their use and disposal. Dispose of the unwanted cleaning agents and keep your hands clean after touching them.

8. Welding Fumes

You risk experiencing the adverse effects of welding fumes if your work involves metal melting and smelting. The welding fumes include nitrogen oxides, nickel oxides, carbon monoxide, ozone, etc.

These invisible gases produced during the welding process are hazardous and can cause lifetime impairments. The known health impacts include occupational asthma, pneumonia, respiratory irritation and cancer.


Avoid welding activities if you are asthmatic. Wear the right protective gear during the welding process and avoid handling food products during the welding process.

9. Gas Cylinders

Gas cylinders store corrosive gases under pressure. They are used in the lab, for cooking, heating, for fuel and so on. However, gases can cause deadly accidents if handled in the wrong way.


Always keep the gas cylinders in an upright position unless the manufacturer instructs otherwise. Close the valves of the unused gas cylinders and store them well. Also, limit the number of people who handle the office gas cylinders.

Stay Safe From Workplace Chemical Hazards

There are many workplace chemical hazards but the above are the main ones. If you happen to handle any of them at work, follow the right protection tips to stay safe. Remember to seek medical help immediately if you swallow any chemical by mistake.

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