The four focus points of process safety

We firmly believe that chemistry provides the perfect solutions to polish, passivate, deoxidize and coat medical implant devices. And while these chemicals are made to help, they can also do a lot a harm if misused or mistreated.

You have to take special precautions when it comes to handling dangerous and volatile chemicals that do things like remove cutting oils, heavy oxidation and other soils from Nitinol, Cobalt Chrome, Stainless Steel and Titanium.

These precautions are often referred to as Process Safety, which focuses on preventing accidental chemical releases, fires and explosions while handling chemicals. Process safety can be broken down into four main areas of focus – chemical reactivity, flammability, electrical, and hot & cold burns.

Below are a few practical procedures that can be used to identify and rectify the hazards of working with chemicals.

Chemical reactivity hazards

A lot of chemical cleaners are acids. Acids are corrosive. Some are very, very corrosive. Dr. Witold Paw, our R&D Manager responsible for all product lines at RBP, often uses an example from Hollywood to explain how corrosive acids can be. In the television show Breaking Bad, the main protagonist uses hydrofluoric acid to dissolve a body. While the same acid is perfectly contained inside a plastic container, it manages to eat its way through a cast iron bathtub.

Hydrofluoric acid is often used as a cleaning agent, where it is quite helpful removing oils and rust. But it will also remove skin and bones.

When handling chemicals, you must remember the following:

  • Etchants/pickling solutions/acids are corrosive. Nitric acid, which is present in many products, is strong acid and oxidizer. Hydrofluoric acid is a special case because it’s not a very strong acid but it is very toxic. Hydrogen peroxide, if handled incorrectly, can be strongly irritant.
  • Methanol is toxic. You must use personal protective equipment (gloves) and ventilation is strongly recommended. Hydrofluoric acid is also volatile, as are alcohols and some components of electropolishing solutions, and should be treated the same.


Many chemicals are flammable (or inflammable – which is derived from the word inflame which is why it means the same thing as flammable). But, all flammable chemicals are not the same. It’s important to understand the flash point of the chemicals you use.

The flash point the lowest temperature at which vapors above a volatile combustible substance ignite in air when exposed to flame. Not to be confused autoignition temperature (the point where a chemical spontaneously combusts), flash points vary from chemical to chemical. For instance, alcohol rinses like methanol, IPA (isopropyl alcohol), have flash points are below room temperature. This means these chemicals easily product flammable vapors.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them; you just have to be wary of potential ignition sources in your facilities.


Electrical current increases the risk of electric shocks and also ignition of flammable substances. While the use of electricity is an important component in many processes, proper setup is required to minimize risk.

Hot and cold burns

Many chemicals can burn the skin, lungs, eyes and so on, and these can range from a mild irritation to fatal injury.

Sulfuric methanol, used in electropolishing at very low temperatures, can at least irritate the tissues. Some chemistries are used at high temperatures, which increase dangers of chemical exposure by inhalation and contact.

Again, it’s important to know your chemicals, and treat them with caution.

Chemicals can improve our lives, and products, but they must be treated with respect.

With extensive experience in chemical handling, storage and transport, RBP Chemical is here to help you understand process safety and develop a plan your organization. For more information, contact us today.

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