Occupational exposure to hazardous substances
For our next project we were off to Great Yarmouth where we were requested to carry out an assessment of occupational exposure to hazardous substances. The building of interest was a factory which specialises in the fabrication of industrial firefighting equipment. The building consisted of four production areas; an office, an administrative section, open plan fabrication floor and finally an open plan mixed warehouse and fabrication area. Our objectives of this assessment were to measure the atmospheric concentration of respirable/inhalable dust, monoethanol amine and other volatile fumes within the working environment. These measurements enabled us to establish the daily personal exposure to the employees and advise our client on suitable risk control to keep their employees safe. Approximately 20 employees work in the main fabrication area and their total exposure time is considered to be 9hours and 40 minutes.
Air monitoring conclusions
Air monitoring results suggest that the employees are unlikely to be exposed to levels of respirable and inhalable dust, volatile fumes and monoethanol amine above the workplace exposure limits (WELs). Our surveyor observed significant quantities of dust within the office which had settled on all horizontal surfaces. Because dust accumulates relatively quickly, regular cleaning alone is not sufficient in keeping the office dust free. When our surveyor investigated this dust further, microscopic analysis revealed that the dust in the office had originated in the warehouse. The microscopic partials identified in the dust were particles commonly found in the outside environment. Due to air monitoring we concluded that the root cause for the dust accumulation in the office was the office ventilation system which draws infiltrated and dust contaminated air through the ventilation port at the bottom of the door. This dust then entered the office environment and settled on the horizontal surfaces due to the drop in air flow velocity.
Recommendations to reduce occupational exposure to hazardous substances
On completion of our assessment our surveyor had some recommendations for our client. It was in their opinion that the dust present did not represent a health risk and was not a respiratory sensitiser. However, they considered the dust at the quantities observed to be a nuisance to the employees during their working day. Overall our assessment indicated that there was adequate control of contaminants within the workplace and that the use of respiratory protective equipment was not required nor was a formal health surveillance program. As in all workplaces it is the employers responsibility to ensure that all employees are trained on health risks from hazardous substances within the workplace, control measures, their use and maintenance. Employees should also be provided with regular refresher training at least once a year as legislations and regulations can alter.