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8.9 Corrosives

OSHA defines a corrosive as “a chemical that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact.” Under the DOT hazard class system, corrosives are listed as hazard class 8.

Corrosive chemicals can be further subdivided as acids and bases. Corrosives can be in the liquid, solid, or gaseous state. Corrosive chemicals can have a severe effect on eyes, skin, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract if an exposure occurs. Corrosive solids and their dusts can react with moisture on the skin or in the respiratory tract and result in an exposure.

Whenever working with concentrated corrosive solutions, splash goggles should be worn instead of safety glasses. Splash goggles used in conjunction with a face shield provides better protection.

Please note: that a face shield alone does not provide adequate protection. Use of rubber gloves such as butyl rubber and a rubber apron may also be required.

Corrosive chemicals should be handled in a fume hood to avoid breathing corrosive vapors and gases.

When mixing concentrated acids with water, always add acid slowly to the water (specifically, add the more concentrated acid to the dilute acid). Never add water to acid, this can result in a boiling effect and cause acid to splatter. Do not pour the acid directly into the water; it should be poured in a manner that allows it to run down the sides of the container. Never store corrosive chemicals above eye level and always use a protective bottle carrier when transporting corrosive chemicals.

Some chemicals can react with acids and liberate toxic and/or flammable vapors. When working with corrosive materials, ensure spill cleanup material is available for neutralization, such as Calcium carbonate for acids and Citric acid for bases.

Wherever acids and bases are used, an eyewash and emergency shower must be available. If any corrosive chemical gets splashed in the eyes, immediately go to an eyewash station and flush your eyes for at least 15 minutes. The importance of flushing for at least 15 minutes cannot be overstated! Once the eyewash has been activated, use your fingers to hold your eyelids open and roll your eyeballs in the stream of water so the entire eye can be flushed. After flushing for at least 15 minutes, seek medical attention immediately and complete an Injury/Illness Report.

For small splashes of corrosives to the skin, remove any contaminated gloves, lab coats, etc., and wash the affected area with soap and water for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention afterward, especially if symptoms persist.For large splashes of corrosives to the body, it is important to get to an emergency shower and start flushing for at least 15 minutes. Once under the shower, and after the shower has been activated, it is equally important to remove any contaminated clothing. Failure to remove contaminated clothing can result in the chemical being held against the skin and causing further chemical exposure and damage. After flushing for a minimum of 15 minutes, seek medical attention immediately and complete an Injury/Illness Report.

Please note: some chemicals, such as Hydrofluoric acid, require the use of a special antidote (such as Calcium gluconate gel) and special emergency procedures. Read the SDSs for any chemical(s) you work with to determine if a special antidote is needed if a chemical exposure occurs.