If a base gets on your skin, you might not know until you happen to see or smell the smoke from the reaction. This fact makes bases more dangerous than acids. Unfortunately, bases are common hazards on the job. And when you're not at work, you might find yourself using sodium hydroxide (liquid drain cleaner), which has a pH of 14 and is thus a very strong base.

Other examples of bases include ammonium, sodium hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate, tri-sodium phosphate, lye, and lime. Bases may be in liquid or powdered form. You'll also find bases in specialty solvents — for example, those used for metal cleaning or extraction. Bases are also used in fabric bleaching, petroleum refining, sewage treatment, and water treatment.

Your first defense is to observe the posted warning signs and wear proper PPE. In the event a base gets on your skin, flush with water to displace the caustic and dilute it at the same time. If you get base in your eye, flush for 15 full minutes.