by Sean Griffin, December 1, 2011
Pool Chemical Safety Checklist
Even the most experienced swimming pool professionals have occasional run ins with chemical related mishaps. From something as minor as dry skin to a potentially fatal outcome, all pool chemical hazards should be addressed to prevent accidents when storing, transporting, or introducing the chemical to the swimming pool. You don’t need to be a Chemist to properly educate yourself on the different chemicals you use to maintain proper pool water chemistry. Knowing the adverse reactions of these chemicals and how to respond in an emergency situation will give you the upper hand if an unexpected chemical spill occurs.
There are many chemical regiments that can be used to keep your pool water crystal clear and free from unwanted bacteria and organic waste. Chlorine is still the most popular chemical that is used as a sanitizer. Chlorine along with other sanitizers can be in liquid, solid, and or a gas state. Chlorine in any form is a hazardous chemical. Chlorine alone in high volumes can be deadly. The chemical reaction when chlorine tablets or chlorine granules become wet causes the element to oxidize which can build up pressure. A bucket of granular chlorine that has had moisture enter the container will have extreme off-gassing and can lead to instant release of high volumes of concentrated chlorine gas when opened. Chlorine combined with muriatic acid can create lethal mustard gas and when chlorine comes in contact with certain algaecides it can cause an instant chemical fire. For these reasons you will never want to mix any chemicals. Store pool chemicals that can have adverse reactions when combined separately!
Read and understand the important information contained within the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Specific information regarding the hazards of the chemical such as flammability as well as first aid measures will be within the MSDS. Procedures for inhalation, eye contact, skin contact and even ingestion will be listed.
Educate yourself and those around you with appropriate training. Every person that plans on handling any chemicals should know the MSDS and accident procedures. If you are handling a chemical you will want to know what safety gear is recommended. Respiratory masks, commercial grade chemical gloves, proper footwear, and protective goggles should be worn by pool professionals when working with concentrated corrosive chemicals that pose inhalation and skin irritation risks.
Store all chemicals away from children and animals. A curious child that might wonder into a chemical storage room is a recipe for disaster. Even some odorless balancing chemicals can be hazardous. Animals and young children with smaller lungs are highly subject to the damage that can be caused by fume inhalation.
Read instructions for storing and follow the recommendations put forth by the manufacturer. Store chemicals in an area with proper ventilation and in an area that will maintain the recommended temperature parameters set forth by manufacturer.
Prevent stored chemicals from getting wet or mixing together. Water and even moisture can cause chemicals with oxidation properties to become highly reactive. Store chemicals that can potentially mix with another chemical to create deadly toxins or fires separately!
Respond to any Chemical Spill immediately and appropriately. Knowing the MSDS information will assist you in correctly neutralizing and disposing of the spilt chemical. Make sure to properly neutralize or dispose all items used in cleaning up a chemical spill. If a fire should result from a pool chemical spill it can be difficult to attack. Do not use a halon-type fire extinguisher which uses a dry chemical that can react negatively with chlorine. Only a qualified person trained in chemical fire response should combat using a copious flow of water.
Never Pre-dissolve solid chemicals or add water to liquid chemicals. Never mix chlorine products with acids, other chlorines or any other substance. Use proper protective wear as directed by the manufacturer when handling or transporting chemicals.
For safety measures you will want to have the appropriate contact readily available if a chemical accident occurs. HAZMAT response teams, local firefighters, and poison control should be on speed dial. Protect your family and property by refreshing your knowledge of the chemicals you use, routinely ensuring the chemicals are properly stored and frequently review accident procedures.