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First aid tips for chemical exposure in the workplace

Workplace chemicals are a constant hazard in some occupations — and even if you’re following all the safety regulations, it’s still possible you or a co-worker could end up accidentally exposed.

Here are some important first-aid reminders to keep in mind:

If the victim inhales chemical vapors

Inhalation of toxic fumes or gasses can cause immediate breathing problems. Get the exposed victim out of the area and call for medical help. If your workplace has supplemental oxygen on hand, administer it. If the victim has stopped breathing, begin CPR and continue until help arrives.

If the victim is splashed with a chemical

Toxic chemicals can quickly cause burns and other skin reactions — and many chemicals can seep right through the victim’s clothing. Get the victim clear of the spilled chemical and strip off any clothing that’s in contact with the liquid. Flush the affected body parts with water repeatedly for 10 minutes. If the victim’s eyes are affected, cover them with a dry cloth once you are done flushing. Then, seek immediate medical care.

If the victim is suffering from chemical burns

Put ice packs on the wound or soak the burn in cool water as soon as possible and contact emergency services immediately. Never apply a home remedy like — butter, aloe vera or cream — to a chemical burn because that can cause more problems.

If the victim has swallowed any of the chemicals

Even small amounts of toxic chemicals can be serious if they are accidentally ingested. Do not induce vomiting, because the chemical can do more damage to the victim’s esophagus and mouth if he or she vomits. Contact emergency services immediately, then call poison control.

Workers who are injured by toxic chemicals should also remember that they’re entitled to medical care and compensation for their lost wages as part of the workers’ compensation system. Make use of that benefit and seek medical treatment for all toxic chemical exposures. First aid treatment alone is not enough!