According to the definition of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), hazardous substances are substances, mixtures or products with dangerous properties. They can cause acute or chronic damage to human health, be flammable, explosive or hazardous to the environment. Activities involving hazardous substances can lead to accidents, illnesses and work-related health hazards.
In order not to impair the health and safety of employees during all activities involving hazardous substances and to keep the risk as low as possible, the employer must take the necessary measures on the basis of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Hazardous Substances Ordinance and the Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances. Employees may only start work with hazardous substances after a risk assessment has been carried out and suitable protective measures have been taken. With regard to the order of priority of protective measures, the so-called "S-T-O-P" principle applies:
Despite technical and organisational occupational health and safety measures and the wearing of personal protective equipment, health hazards may be caused by hazardous substances. Occupational health care serves to identify and prevent health impairments in good time. It takes place before a hazardous activity is taken up and at regular intervals during this activity. Further information on occupational health care can be found here.
Accidents with hydrogen fluoride, hydrofluoric acid and inorganic fluorides can lead to serious injuries and health impairments, even death. Employees must be instructed regularly, but at least once a year, before starting work with hydrogen fluoride, hydrofluoric acid and inorganic fluorides.
Hydrofluoric acid burns of the skin - and this includes any contamination of the skin with hydrofluoric acid - are particularly dangerous. Symptoms do not appear initially in every case. Sometimes pain sets in only after a delay of hours. The extent of the tissue damage is usually not assessable at first.
All persons who work with hydrogen fluoride, hydrofluoric acid or inorganic fluorides must be informed about special first aid measures and instructed on what to do in case of accidents at work. In particular, the urgency of immediate action must be emphasised.
As a first measure, the skin should be rinsed with plenty of running water - as in the case of other burns. Care should be taken that surrounding tissue is not contaminated by the rinsing fluid. Wetted clothing must be removed. After rinsing thoroughly with water, calcium gluconate gel is applied to the affected skin and gently massaged into the skin until the pain subsides. In between, the calcium gluconate paste should be rinsed off with water and replaced with new calcium gluconate gel. After the pain is gone, continue rubbing the gel for another 15 minutes.
It is always necessary to consult a doctor (D-doctor). In case of hydrofluoric acid burns that go beyond a few splashes, the emergency doctor should be called immediately.