Tess* was five years old and eager to discover the world. It was a regular day at home with her babysitter when Tess swallowed sodium hydroxide, a highly hazardous chemical substance.
“I don’t remember much about that particular day. But I remember after I had just a little taste of a cleaning product left on the bathroom floor how I struggled to breathe and how I was gasping for breath,” says Tess. “I remember the burning sensation on my tongue and throat and screaming out of desperation to my big brother.”
“In the weeks and months to come, there were countless visits to the hospital where I received an esophageal dilatation,” says Tess. “As a result, I spent a good amount of my childhood scared of eating solid foods and choking. My case wasn’t too severe. But there was a four-year-old child in the same hospital who had the same accident as me. He wasn’t as lucky as me. After some time into treatment, he didn’t improve, and he died.”
When my friend first shared her experience with me, I was shocked. If she had not been found in time, she could have died. If the cleaning product was stored properly, the incident might never have occurred. Furthermore, that same accident could happen to any young, curious child, including my own son.
Chemicals are found everywhere. They come in the form of flammables, combustible substances, and poisonous materials. Many products containing hazardous chemicals are routinely used and stored in homes, churches, and schools. Independent of which form they come in, these products can cause death, serious injury, long-lasting health effects, and damage to buildings, homes, and other property.
To keep children and church family safe, take proactive steps before a tragedy happens that could be similar to the experience of Tess.
7 Ways to Store Hazardous Materials Properly:
Follow all the storage instructions on the product label.
Storage requirements vary based on the chemical properties a material contains.
Store all volatile products in well-ventilated areas.
Fumes can be toxic to humans and animals.
Store flammable products according to the recommended temperature.
Some containers will bulge if stored under conditions that are too hot. Liquid materials will expand, freeze, and burst if you store them in conditions that are too cold.
Keep all hazardous materials out of the reach of children and away from all animals.
Buy products with safety lids whenever possible.
Store all hazardous materials behind locked doors.
Use the original container to store the hazardous material.
If the label is lifting off, use a transparent tape to secure it.
Reduce the amount of hazardous materials you keep in storage.
Purchase only the amount necessary to complete your current job. You may find it better to discard leftover product rather than storing it. Just make sure you follow the proper process for disposing of hazardous materials.
Perform periodic maintenance of storage areas.
Look for potential risks inside each storage area on a regular basis. Be sure there are no apparent fumes.
Inspect all hazardous material containers. Make sure you can clearly read each label. The containers should be free of rust, bulges, dents, or leaks. If there is an expiration date, be sure to use the chemical before the recommended date.
Use a separate broom and dustpan for chemical cleanup. Be sure to lock these tools away when you are not using them.
In case of an emergency…
Call the poison control center immediately. You should keep the telephone number posted near the phone for easy access. If there is more than one phone at your facility, post the number by each phone.
Reference a material safety data sheet (MSDS) on the product and review the emergency procedures associated with that chemical product, as well as safe handling of the product.
Don’t take chances. Let’s protect the lives that God has entrusted to us by exercising caution and always being proactive.
Carina Franca is a marketing analyst for Adventist Risk Management
*Tess is a pseudonym.
This article originally appeared in the Adventist Risk Management, Inc. free newsletter Solutions.