Writing a benzene awareness safety program is not as difficult as it may first seem. If your company is a subscriber to ISNetworld and you want your benzene awareness program to pass their review team you are going to need to include, at a minimum, these seven elements.
Please be aware that benzene awareness and benzene exposure are two completely different things. We will only be covering benzene awareness with this article.
1. Your safety program needs to discuss possible locations where your employees may be exposed to benzene. These locations may not only include areas at your facility but also areas at facilities where your employees may work. Petroleum refineries, storage tanks and pipelines are perfect examples of where benzene may exist.
2. All the physical characteristics of benzene should be included in your safety program. Your employees need to know that benzene is not only toxic but colorless, flammable, has an aromatic smell (sweetish odor) and won’t dissolve in water. For more physical characteristics you may want to reference benzene’s MSDS.
3. Your safety program should mention the potential health effects of benzene. Short term overexposure to benzene may cause eye irritation, nose and skin irritation, dizziness, irritability, nausea, headaches and euphoria. Long term overexposure can result in blood disorders like anemia and leukemia.
4. Proper PPE (personal protective equipment) should be discussed in your program. If there is a potential that your employees will be exposed to benzene, then your safety program must specifically state what types of PPE they must wear.
5. Your safety program should mention safety precautions when working around stored benzene such as no smoking and no eating or drinking.
6. Benzene vapors are highly flammable. Your safety program should mention that fire extinguishers will be readily available to all employees that work near stored benzene.
7. The last item of your benzene safety program needs to mention the contingency plan in case of an emergency. This contingency plan should not only cover your facility but also any facility that your employees may be working. Most offsite facilities will have an evacuation plan in place but it is important that your employees are aware of this plan and what the proper procedures are in case of an emergency. Your employees should be made aware of where benzene is stored at any offsite location and of any site specific safety rules and procedures.
Benzene can be very dangerous and like most items that are potentially dangerous your employees have a right to know what they are dealing with and how to work safely near stored benzene.