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Unlabelled containers: Chemicals stored in drinking water bottles

What happened

One of our members has noted a trend of chemicals being decanted into unlabelled clear plastic water bottles of the sort commonly used for drinking water, and persons have assumed the chemicals to be water and taken a drink from the bottle. Our member noted two recent cases; in one case, a person ingested a small amount of the chemical; in the other, a person took a sip from the bottle but did not swallow any chemical.

Water bottle in the position at the time of incident (Note: There was no red tag on it at the time
Close up of the bottle showing that the contents (Loctite SF7063) looked like water
Examples of appropriate containers for decanting chemicals

What went wrong/causes

  • Poor hazard awareness;
  • Inappropriate and inadequate management of chemicals, putting the health and safety of employees at risk.

Storing chemicals in unlabelled containers presents an avoidable risk, especially when chemicals are placed into containers such water bottles or soft drinks bottles. Accidental poisoning could result in serious harm. If unidentified chemicals are accidentally ingested, medical staff may not be able to administer the appropriate treatment in a timely manner, with potentially fatal consequences.

Lessons learnt

  • Chemicals are often ordered in bulk quantities and may arrive in containers that are too large or heavy for everyday use. Subsequently the chemicals may be transferred to smaller containers that are easier to manage;
  • If it is necessary to decant chemicals from their original containers:
    • Always decant the chemicals in the chemical storage area
    • Use a container in good condition, of type appropriate for the chemical
    • Ensure that both containers are clearly labelled. The labels should be clean and legible and should include:
      • full product name
      • Manufacturer name
      • safety data sheet (SDS) reference
    • Do not use bottles normally used for, or associated with, drinking water
    • Wear the correct personal protective equipment including gloves and protective eyewear;
  • Storage of chemicals should be in accordance with the SDS and in a designated and properly controlled storage location;
  • Persons dealing with chemicals should be fully aware of relevant SDS information and local regulatory requirements such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH (UK)).

Members may wish to refer to the following similar incident:

Safety Event

Published: 15 November 2017
Download: IMCA SF 29/17

Relevant life-saving rules:
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