Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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Health and Safety: Teaching Tools

Chemical Hazards Class Discussion

It happened in Ontario - It was his third day on the job, and a worker was asked to pour a chemical product from a drum. While he was pouring the liquid, the drum rim touched another container and an explosion engulfed him in flames. The worker received third degree burns to 90% of his body. He was rushed to the hospital but he died the next day. He was nineteen years old.

The death of this young man was not an accident.
It was entirely preventable.

What the worker didn't know...

The product contained a hazardous material called toluene. Toluene can explode very easily. In this case, it exploded because of the static electricity charge that was created when he poured the material into the drum. Why did he not know it was a hazardous product?

  • The container was not marked or labelled.
  • He had not received any training.
  • He had not been informed of his rights and responsibilities under WHMIS.

Ask the class...What could you do to prevent this from happening where you work?

Suggested Responses

ENSURE you get the appropriate WHMIS education and work site-specific training before starting a new job or task.
CHECK that there is a label on every product. (The law requires that all hazardous products have a label. This requirement is part of the WHMIS system.)
KNOW your rights and responsibilities as a worker.
ASK for help if you are not sure if the job you are asked to do is hazardous or not.