COSHH - The Dangers of Mixing Chemicals
Updated: May 4
Today I want to talk about what could happen when mixing chemicals.
Every workplace has chemicals in it.
Some businesses will only use general cleaning chemicals but many use exceptionally dangerous substances.
A lot of those substances are incompatible with each other and mixing them, accidentally or otherwise, could result in some pretty daunting effects.
I'm not trying to tell you that your general cleaning chemicals don't pose a significant risk.
They do. Especially when they're mixed.
I found a case about an office cleaner who mixed two general, bleach-based cleaning chemicals together.
Unfortunately the chemicals were incompatible and the mixture underwent a chemical reaction that created Chlorine gas, killing the poor guy.
Clearly the cleaner hadn't been properly trained in the use of the chemicals he cleaned offices with on a daily basis.
It clearly states on both safety data sheets that these two cleaning chemicals should never be mixed due to the possibly of spontaneous Chlorine gas production
While we use Chlorine in the leisure industry for swimming pools, it is a pretty dangerous chemical when not handled correctly.
Exposure to Chlorine gas, even in small amounts, aggravates the mucous membranes around your nose, eyes and throat.
This causing bad coughs and some breathing difficulties.
It's also able to absorb itself into our skin resulting in blisters, swelling and painful inflammation.
If the level of exposure is higher you could suffer from severe chest pains and even more difficulty breathing, fluid in your lungs, pneumonia, vomiting and, if exposed to enough, even death.
Incidents like the one with the poor office cleaner can easily be avoided with the right information and training.
Every chemical we know about, use or manufacture has a safety data sheet with the proper information on there.
But, if you're ever in any doubt.
Don't mix any chemicals, consult their safety data sheets and consult with your supervisor or manager.
This isn't only true for cleaning chemicals.
Many chemicals are incompatible, as I said earlier.
And unless you know the information beforehand, it's very difficult to say what will happen when two or more chemicals are mixed together.
Many chemicals become corrosive or explosive when mixed and they could seriously damage your health, or that of the environment.
It's also possible for two mixed chemicals to become something else altogether.
Which means that the chemical that was just created has not been risk assessed and has potentially even greater dangers associated with it and you may not be using the correct control measure or personal protective equipment any longer.
Are you worried you do not have the right information when it comes to safely using and handling chemicals?
Take the new COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™.