Chemical Safety and Hazard Communication Standards for Pharmaceuticals

Chemical Safety and Hazard Communication Standards for Pharmaceuticals

To meet the demands of millions relying on prescription medications, the pharmaceutical industry must prioritize enhancing chemical safety and hazard communication standards to protect its workers effectively.

The pharmaceutical industry supports millions of people taking prescription medications daily. It must function efficiently to keep up with demand, which starts with protecting its workers. Chemical safety and hazard communication standards for drugs can always improve. These are the primary ways people working in the sector can protect themselves and their team members.

What Is the Hazard Communication Standard?

OSHA created the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to ensure chemical manufacturers placed hazard labels on products and communicated protective measures to their employees. It’s much easier to avoid accidents if everyone knows what they’re working with, how to handle it and what the health risks would be if exposure occurred.

Ways to Improve Hazard Communications with Team Members

Although OSHA regulatory compliance is mandatory, pharmaceutical leaders can always improve hazard communications with their teams. These ideas make safety information more well-known outside annual training sessions.

1. Create Updated Safety Data Sheets

OSHA requires distributors and manufacturers to utilize HCS data sheets on all chemical products. They make safety standards and response strategies easily visible, but the information can become outdated if teams don’t make new ones with each companywide manufacturing update.

Reviewing and revising data sheets regularly can become a part of any pharmaceutical leadership team’s schedule. They’ll prevent lapses in things like hazard identification after chemical handling or machinery changes.

2. Make Labels More Informative

HCS labels are another opportunity for improved communication standards for pharmaceutical companies. The labels are part of OSHA’s ongoing effort to make safety efforts visible to everyone in a chemical manufacturing or processing environment. Team leaders can create more informative labels by including chemical-specific response plans to go with the already pictured hazard pictograms.

Individuals making products with a commonly used chemical like dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) may feel comfortable around the organic solvent. Familiarity can cause lapses in remembering safety details. Team members may take safety precautions more seriously if a corresponding HCS label for DMSO containers includes specific wording regarding the skin irritation that occurs after exposure.

3. Include Safety Training Information on Easily Visible Signage

Annual or biannual safety training occurs in most workplaces. It’s an easy way to remind all team members of precautionary measures and response strategies they learned during new hire training. However, people forget this information as they focus on their tasks. Hanging additional safety signage around the workplace reduces the odds of someone forgetting their training and having an accident.

Standard Chemical Safety Measures

Specific chemical safety measures differ from general communication standards. They’re tools pharmaceutical industry workers use to stay safe daily. Many of these tools are within active machinery and software, but workplace leaders can utilize additional methods to prevent accidents more effectively.

Ways to Further Protect Pharmaceutical Workers

Individuals handling, packaging or otherwise working with chemicals could always benefit from increased safety measures. These ideas will better protect pharmaceutical employees at every level.

1. Schedule Additional Ventilation System Inspections

Workplaces dealing with chemicals already have ventilation systems to ensure clean air quality. International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) standards make ventilation functional in each unique workplace, along with additional guidelines for non-sterile products from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Reducing the concentration of airborne contaminants is essential, especially after a hazardous spill or leak. Additional ventilation system inspections are crucial to maintaining breathable air. No one will worry about their system’s efficacy if spills occur.

2. Enforce Widespread Use of Containment Measures

The American Chemical Society (ACS) published updated safety guidelines for chemical containment in 2015. Those in pharmaceutical leadership positions can more proactively enforce those measures in the workplace by assigning responsibilities to each team member. Exposure will be minimal in an accident if individuals routinely inspect reagent quantities, fume hood activation and glove box seals.

3. Upgrade Personal Protective Equipment

The ACS also provides guidelines for using personal protective equipment (PPE) in laboratories or manufacturing facilities. Standard items like goggles, gloves and disposable respirators are essential, but leadership teams can also upgrade their on-site equipment to protect their team members further.

Masks made with the latest nanofibers prevent the inhalation of 99.9 percent of aerosolized particles compared to previous masks made with cloth. Safety helmets in manufacturing facilities could feature nylon or kevlar fibers instead of traditional stiff polycarbonate. The initial investment would keep employees safe while dealing with chemicals and manufacturing machinery.

Make Safety Compliance an Ongoing Effort

Anyone can improve the chemical safety and hazard communication standards in a pharmaceutical workplace. The initiative and effort make everyone safer on the job and ensure production stays on track by preventing accidents.

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