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Chemical factors are risk factors that can affect labor activities that are chemical in nature, caused by the use of chemicals and their derivatives in the workplace, and can cause illness in the workforce.
Harmful chemical compounds in the form of solids, liquids, gases, mists, dusts, fumes, and vapors exert toxic effects by inhalation (breathing), absorption (through direct contact with the skin), or ingestion (eating or drinking). Airborne chemical hazards exist as concentrations of mists, vapors, gases, fumes, or solids. Some are toxic through inhalation and some of them irritate the skin on contact; some can be toxic by absorption through the skin or through ingestion, and some are corrosive to living tissue.
The degree of worker risk from exposure to any given substance depends on the nature and potency of the toxic effects and the magnitude and duration of exposure.
Information on the risk to workers from chemical hazards can be obtained from the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard requires be supplied by the manufacturer or importer to the purchaser of all hazardous materials.
The MSDS is a summary of the important health, safety, and toxicological information on the chemical or the mixture's ingredients. Other provisions of the Hazard Communication Standard require that all containers of hazardous substances in the workplace have appropriate warning and identification labels.