Chlorine is used in water treatment and in the manufacturing process for paper, plastics, cleaning chemicals, and other products. Chlorine is used in liquid form and as a compressed gas. Because chlorine is a corrosive material, it can cause irritation when workers breathe it or expose their skin to it. At very high concentrations, chlorine exposure can cause death after just a few breaths. Because of the danger of respiratory damage, chemical burns, and death, workers need to use, store, and handle chlorine properly.
Chlorine is a very reactive chemical. Chlorine will react violently with hydrogen, acetylene gases, and solvents. These reactions create heat, or an exothermic reaction. Chlorine reactions with ammonia can create explosive compounds and gases that are toxic to breathe. Chlorine reacts with metals and heat and can cause fires. In the presence of water, chlorine can create a highly corrosive and dangerous acid mist.
Because of chlorine reactivity, storage and handling procedures are very important. Clearly identify chlorine storage areas, storage containers, and process equipment and lines. Never store chlorine and ammonia in the same building or area. Keep chlorine isolated and in different rooms from the chemicals that it reacts with. Store chlorine away from all sources of water to avoid creating acid mists. Keep chlorine equipment moisture-free. Do not use water to clean up chlorine leaks or spills.
To prevent chlorine leaks and spills, follow written safe work practices. Create an inspection and maintenance schedule for all chlorine storage and handling equipment. Regularly monitor equipment and containers for leaks. Leak detection kits using ammonium chloride can identify leaks. Have tank and line repair kits available throughout the worksite.
Be prepared in case of an emergency. Chlorine monitoring alarms monitor work areas for accidental leaks or spills. Automatic or remote shut-down capability allows you control of the situation from a distance. Follow written emergency spill and release plans. Get training and use practice drills for emergency procedures. Keep containment and spill response kits available in various areas on site.
Use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as splash goggles, face shields, gloves, coveralls, and leather boots when working around chlorine. If necessary, use a respirator to protect your lungs from breathing in chlorine fumes. Emergency escape respirators should be kept in chlorine use and storage areas and around the plant in case of an accidental release or spill. There should be enough PPE for all site workers, contractors, and visitors.
In case of an accidental exposure, move exposed workers to a well-ventilated area. If workers get splashes of chemicals on the skin or in the eyes, have emergency eye washes and showers available throughout the facility in order to provide immediate access to the flushing liquids. Flush eyes and skin for at least 15 minutes and seek medical treatment after exposures. All employees that handle or work around chlorine need training in these safe work practices, exposure control, first aid, PPE, and emergency response.