Chemical risks in pharmaceutical industry
The pharmaceutical industry processes involve the use of various chemicals (the main types of corrosive and irritant agents are all represented: acids, bases, oxidisers, reducing agents, solvents or even chelating agents) which can be found sometimes at very high concentrations.
The chemical risks linked to the handling of these agents must thus be managed during five major stages, from the initial reception of the raw materials to the final shipping of the finished products: research & development (R&D), manufacture, inspection, storage and maintenance.
Some of the common products which can be met in this industry are nitric acid, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, caustic soda, ammonia, solvents, alcohols, peroxides, etc…
«The chemical risks linked to the handling of these agents must thus be managed during five major stages»
- R&D: The development of any pharmaceutical active compound always begins with Research & Development (R&D) operations conducted in laboratories. The chemical risk encountered there is very specific to laboratories (presence and use of varied chemicals but in limited quantities).
- Manufacture: Accidents may happen when handling chemicals or adding chemical reagents.
- Inspection: The accidents which occur then are often due to handling mistakes when testing or analysing the products (collection, dosage…) and sampling.
- Storage: The storage includes the following operations: unloading, storing, and transfer of the raw materials. The main source of accident is first of all related to the transfer of chemicals from a container or a tank to another one.
- Maintenance: The industrial risks of damage or dysfunction of the equipments lead pharmaceutical companies to perform frequent maintenance operations of the installations. Accidents may be observed during the operations of draining, cleaning, sanitation, and purging. The main causes of accidents are the chemical splashes which can occur for instance when a pipe or a tank bursts under pressure or during disassembling operations of pipes or valves.