What Is The Safest Way To Use Solvents In Industrial Facilities?

Solvents are used for many different purposes. Their ability to dissolve and separate various substances makes them useful for processing, extraction, cleaning, and many other purposes. No matter how solvents are used, they must be handled with care and specially disposed of or recycled.

Many companies will purchase solvent recycling machinery to reduce the need to handle and collect solvent for disposal. Solvent recyclers can be incorporated into various equipment setups, like parts washers and ultrasonic cleaners. Through solvent distillation, it’s possible to isolate contaminants and effectively filter solvents so they are cleaned and able to be reliably reused. Solvent recycling makes it possible to regain 90 percent of useable liquid solvents from saturated, waste liquid and will greatly reduce the amount of hazardous waste that must be collected for special disposal.

Whether a manufacturer, cleaning service provider, or laboratory chooses to recycle solvent or simply collect it for safe disposal, there are things of which all solvent users should be aware to prevent potentially dangerous situations in their facilities. The following measures and procedures will help anyone handling solvents avoid hazards to health and safety.


Utilizing Containers Correctly

Keeping solvents contained and easily identifiable is paramount to ensuring facility safety. Containers used to store, transport, or collect solvent at any state should always be made of a suitable material, specifically one that will retain its integrity when in contact with the solvent. Solvent containers must also be sealable so that no vapors or fumes leak.

Proper labeling is also a requirement of solvent containers. Depending on the industry and various regulatory requirements, the solvent’s container should have a standardized label that indicates the specific solvent, vital safety information, and other data. Keeping solvents in an unlabeled or mislabeled container can lead to misidentification of chemicals, which can lead to disastrous results.

Make sure all containers are stored in an appropriate area, where there is no risk of corrosion or contamination. Since many solvents are flammable, open flames, sparks, and extreme temperatures must not be allowed in areas with solvents are stored or used. There should also be no risk of impacts that could cause punctures or leaks. Any handling should account for container size and weight and the appropriate equipment should be used when moving containers.  

Wearing Protective Equipment

Since solvents can affect the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin, protective equipment should always be worn when using, collecting, and moving solvents. This equipment may include goggles, gloves, aprons, boots, and a mask or respirator.

This equipment is essential for protection against acute injury from exposure, like chemical burns or contact with the mucus membranes. It is also necessary for individuals who may be exposed to solvents on a regular basis. Over time, exposure to some chemicals can have long-term effects on one’s health. Depending on the type of solvent, neurological issues, infertility, cancer, and other serious health problems may occur due to excessive and long-term exposure. Using protective equipment will help reduce the risk of such hazards.    

Develop And Follow A Plan

All facilities should have established safety protocols for dealing with solvent exposure, including what to do in the event of spills and direct contact. This should include evacuation, cleanup, ventilation, and containment measures, as well as emergency and first aid protocol for anyone who’s been exposed.   

Since most solvents evaporate very quickly at room temperatures, it’s very important to have systems and protocols in place so that a bad situation isn’t worsened because of a lack of preparation and equipment to deal with the unexpected.

Know The Signs Of Health Problems

If someone has been directly exposed to solvents, whether through contact with the skin or eyes, or inhalation or injection, it will be necessary to act fast and correctly. Anyone who deals with solvents should be aware of the signs of poisoning due to exposure.

Depending on the specific chemical, this can include dizziness and fainting, nausea, and loss of coordination, focus, and balance. Solvent burns can range from the presence of mild irritation to severe chemical burns.

The appropriate first aid should then be performed and emergency medical services should be sought. All personnel who work with solvent or in areas where solvents are used and/or contained, should be fully trained on emergency procedures and regular drills and training should be completed.

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