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But the Label Says….

- October 27, 2014 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

How many people have coffee cans in their garage with nails, screws, miscellaneous nuts and bolts in them?  Guilty as charged. They are even pretty handy when painting.

Once the original contents have been used, empty bottles and containers can be handy around the house.  When used for a reason other than the original purpose, issues can arise.  Maybe not so much for nuts and bolts in a coffee container, but, for example, I like to grow, dry and grind hot peppers to make my own chili powder and empty containers (such as the plastic coffee can) can be useful to have around for storage.

How could someone confuse coffee with ground peppers you might ask?  Well, most of us make a cup of coffee right when we wake up.  Think about it.  It’s early, you aren’t fully awake and your eyes aren’t quite open.  With a slight cold to throw your sense of smell off, you have just made a fresh batch of hot chili brew!  Not a good way to start the day.

So why talk about my especially hot (uh, spicy) brew when I should be telling you how to keep your employees safe?  Take this scenario and transpose it onto the workplace:

Here is a real world example:  there is a smoldering ember in a workshop and your employee grabs a nearby water bottle to put it out not realizing the bottle is full of cleaning alcohol.  Instead of dousing the ember, he literally added fuel to the fire.

There was recently a story in the news about a daycare center in which twenty-eight toddlers and two adults were sent to a hospital due to drinking bleach tainted water.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident!

In the summer of 2005, it was discovered that Duke University Health System physicians had used instruments in surgery on over 3,500 patients that had been mistakenly cleaned with hydraulic fluid.

How could this have happened?   According to the Duke Chronicle, “in Fall 2004, an Automatic Elevator Co. employee drained hydraulic fluid from an elevator in Duke Health Raleigh into empty buckets labeled as detergent for surgical instruments.

“Employees from medical suppliers Cardinal Health 200, Inc. took custody of the containers and transported them back to Duke Hospital, Durham Regional, Duke Health Raleigh and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. Only Durham Regional and Duke Health Raleigh, however, used the fluid.

“The color of detergent is typically milky, but photographs showed that at least one bin that officials later confirmed contained hydraulic fluid had substance the color of ‘maple syrup,’ according to a June 2005 report by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.”

Fortunately, none of the toddlers or the adults at the daycare sustained any lasting effects, and they were treated and released.  However, that is not the case for the incident at Duke.  Dozens of patients claimed to have suffered from the mix-up.  Millions of dollars in lawsuits have been filed and the finger pointing continues as the courts try to determine who is to blame.

Here are the best practices when it comes to using secondary containers:

  • Do not to allow ANY container to be used for anything other than the original product.
  • If a container must be reused, make sure you and your employees understand the importance of properly labeling that secondary container.
  • The person who fills the secondary container (spray bottle, reused bottle or bucket) is responsible to ensure that it is properly labeled.

What if it was your child at that daycare or your loved one having a medical procedure performed?  Wouldn’t you want to know that everyone followed the appropriate procedures to make sure that they were safe?



Goldberg, Barbara. “Dozens of children at N.J. Daycare Center Accidentally Drink Bleach.” News.Yahoo.com. Thomson Reuters, 11 September 2014. Web. 22 October 2014. http://news.yahoo.com/dozens-children-nj-day-care-center-accidentally-drink-184910873.html

Parikh, Shuchi.  “DUHS replies to hydraulic fluid lawsuit.” DukeChronicle.com. Duke Student Publishing Company, 7 July 2008.  Web. 12 September 2014. http://www.dukechronicle.com