Any substance that could adversely affect your health if you’re exposed to it is a hazardous material. It doesn’t matter if it’s biological or chemical, it’s the potential for harm that defines the level of hazard. Many substances are defined as hazardous by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which assigns PELs to each substance. OSHA also defines safe handling practices, including personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for safe handling.
There are six categories for hazardous substances. These include:
Employers who have staff working around hazardous materials must identify these materials and assure that PELs aren’t exceeded. Training for safe handling must be provided, including work procedures and proper use of PPE.
When PELs are exceeded for 30 days or more per year, employees may be required to undergo annual hazmat physicals to determine that controls including PPE are effective and no negative health effects have occurred.
A hazmat physical is a baseline exam that’s performed before you work with hazmats. It assesses your current health and identifies any pre-existing conditions that could be aggravated by hazmat exposure.
Both annual and baseline physical exams include:
Employers typically provide your job description, current and projected hazmat exposure levels, a list of PPE currently used, and prior medical evaluations, if available.
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