Chemical Safety (including airborne chemicals)


What does "hazardous" mean?

Expand or collapse. Read more about what "hazardous" means.

Some consumer products considered safe for home use, such as acetone or bleach, can become hazardous when used at work for longer periods of time or more frequently

Some consumer products considered safe for home use, such as acetone or bleach, can become hazardous when used at work for longer periods of time or more frequently.

Photo courtesy of L&I.

Basically, any chemical that can potentially cause harm is considered to be hazardous. 

For example, hazardous chemicals may possibly cause the following:

  • Immediate or delayed health problems.
  • Low oxygen (due to buildup of other gases in enclosed or confined spaces).
  • Fires and explosions (ignitable vapor).
  • Frostbite or chemical burns (liquefied gases).

Spotting chemicals

Expand or collapse. Read more about spotting chemicals.

Spotting potentially hazardous chemicals is the first step to addressing chemical safety in the workplace.

Walk through your workplace to spot chemicals in use and in storage. You can choose to use a job hazard analysis (JHA) or some other approach to do this. A JHA can help you detail additional safety information like hazard solutions and what types of personal protective equipment (PPE) to use.

Check information on required safety data sheets (SDSs) (341 KB DOC) and product labels to learn whether and how chemicals can cause harm. Request SDSs and labels (26 KB DOC) from distributors or manufacturers if you don't have one.

Programs that address chemical safety

Expand or collapse. Read more about programs that address chemical safety.

At a minimum, employers are required to develop and follow a written Hazard Communication Program when workers could have exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Depending on the chemical and possible exposures, your overall safety program may also need to address spills and other emergencies in the workplace, personal protective equipment (PPE), and Respiratory Protection.

Click here to see a list of chemicals with additional requirements.

Don't forget about chemicals in the air

Expand or collapse. Read more about chemicals in the air.

Worker holding a powered sander sanding a piece of wood on a workbench

Not all chemicals come in containers or packages. Some are released into the air as particles during work activities like sanding. In some situations, chemicals in the air can pose a health risk to unprotected workers (for example, when exposures are above Permissible Exposure Limits) (3.16 MB PDF)).

Photo courtesy of L&I.

Check to see if chemicals can be released into the air as vapor, particles, or gases by work activities (spraying, sanding, welding) or processes (combustion, evaporation, fermentation).

Hazardous chemicals in the air would necessitate additional safety measures when workers’ exposure are above Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) (3.16 MB PDF). Such required measures could include the following:







End of main content, page footer follows.

Access Washington official state portal

   © Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. Use of this site is subject to the laws of the state of Washington.

Help us improve