Are employees exposed to hazardous substances?
When working in factories employees are exposed to a number of hazardous substances which are produced as a result of producing items made from materials such as metals and plastics. It is the employers role to ensure that the levels of hazardous substances which their employees are exposed to daily, are below the workplace exposure limits (WELs).
We were contacted by our next client and asked to carry out an assessment of occupational exposure to hazardous substances within their building. The factory is based in Basildon and specialises in the production of lights and reflectors. The manufacturing process involves the cutting and shaping of reflectors from metal sheets using a variety of tools such as press cutters, bending machines and punch presses. No chemical compounds are used in this process.
The welding process involves the welder using MIG welding technique on mild steel components using 0.6mm Ultramag (C, Mn, Si) wire. The small steel components are sanded, drilled and welded so this area is fitted with a local exhaust ventilation system.
How to assess the exposure levels to hazardous substances?
In order to assess the occupational exposure of hazardous substances, our surveyor must collect samples of airborne particulates and vapours. He does this using Cassella and Gillian Personal samplers. Samples of inhalable dust were collected using IOM sampling head fitted with QMA filters (25mm, 1.6µm). Finally we collect samples of hydrofluoric acid using low flow adapter fitted with a Obo 53 sorbent tube.
So are employees at risk?
The results of air monitoring suggested that the employees are unlikely to be exposed to levels of respirable/inhalable dust and hydrofluoric acid above the workplace exposure limits (WELs). This also suggests that the existing engineering controls currently in place are adequate and provide effective control of contaminants.
Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is not required in order to control the employees’ exposure to coating dust and hydrofluoric acid however the use of light RPE is recommended as an additional protection measure especially during cleaning tasks.
The LEV systems are a primary measure for the control of contaminants and therefore it is recommended to carry out a thorough examination and testing of the LEV systems in accordance with HSG 258 as required by The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. And all employees should be trained on health risks from hazardous substances in the workplace, control measures, their use and maintenance. Employees should be provided with regular refresher training at least once a year.