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Handling hazardous materials

What are the most common types of dangerous goods that pose a significant safety risk in various industries?

Photo: Kittisak Kaewchalun/iStockphoto

Responding is Jade Nelson, corporate dangerous goods manager, GXO, Greenwich, CT.

Dangerous goods present significant safety risks in numerous industries, especially during transportation. Among the most commonly shipped hazardous materials are flammable liquids, dry ice and lithium batteries. With the increasing consumer use of lithium batteries, it’s crucial to explore the potential risks associated with these items and identify effective measures to mitigate those risks.

Flammable liquids

Flammable liquids – including gasoline, solvents and certain chemicals – are prevalent in industries such as manufacturing, construction and transportation. To mitigate the risks associated with these substances, strict adherence to safety regulations is paramount. Organizations should invest in proper storage facilities equipped with fire suppression systems and ensure regular inspections to identify potential hazards. Transporting flammable liquids requires specialized containers designed to prevent leaks or spills. Employing trained personnel who understand safe handling procedures and providing comprehensive training on emergency response protocols can significantly minimize the risks associated with flammable liquids.

Dry ice

Industries such as food and beverage, health care, and aerospace and defense commonly use dry ice – solidified carbon dioxide – for refrigeration purposes. Although it isn’t flammable, dry ice poses unique safety risks because of its extremely cold temperature and potential for rapid gas release. Proper handling of dry ice is crucial to mitigate these risks. Dry ice should be stored in well-ventilated areas to prevent carbon dioxide buildup. Employees handling dry ice should wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including insulated gloves, to protect against frostbite. Adequate training on safe handling, storage and ventilation measures is vital to ensure the safety of workers and prevent incidents or injuries.

Lithium batteries

Lithium batteries have become increasingly common in various industries because of their high energy density. However, they also pose significant safety risks, especially during transportation. Lithium batteries have the potential to short-circuit, overheat and ignite, leading to fires or explosions. To mitigate these risks, strict regulations and guidelines have been implemented for their transportation and storage. Industries must adhere to these regulations and ensure lithium batteries are packaged and labeled correctly. Additionally, implementing proper storage facilities with fire suppression systems can help contain any potential incidents.

Training employees in the safe handling of lithium batteries is crucial. Regular inspections of storage areas and transportation vehicles can help identify any potential issues or damage that may lead to safety hazards.

Flammable liquids, dry ice and lithium batteries are among the most commonly shipped dangerous goods that pose significant safety risks in various industries. By adhering to safety regulations, implementing proper storage facilities, providing comprehensive training and conducting regular inspections, organizations can effectively mitigate the risks associated with these materials and ensure a safer working environment.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be considered a National Safety Council endorsement.

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