Control of hazardous substances within the workplace
At Sysco Environmental Ltd, we are able to offer our customers a complete range of occupational exposure monitoring solutions to identify, evaluate and control risk to worker’s health from exposure to hazardous substances. Specialist monitoring provides a scientifically solid basis for identification of the most appropriate solution to contamination control. All occupational exposure testing is carried out using validated methods produced by leading health and safety organisations such as HSE, NIOSH and OSHA.
Most recently we travelled to Whitley Bay to carry out an assessment of occupational exposure to hazardous substances in a factory. The factory we attended specialised in the production of electric healthcare components.
What hazardous substances are employees exposed to?
Approximately 15 employees work in the soldering area of the factory. Tasks involve soldering electronic components onto boards using hand held soldering tools which are equipped with on-tool extraction. The employees working in this area are likely to be exposed to soldering flux fumes and metal fumes contained in the soldering paste. One employee is responsible for cleaning the soldering machines in the manual board assembly area. This operation is carried out during lunch break when all other employees are out of the vicinity. While cleaning the tools the employee uses a disposable mask of FFP3 standard as they are likely to be exposed to residual concentration of soldering fumes and metal contained in the soldering paste.
Are employees exposed to concentrations above the WELs?
Air monitoring results suggested that the employees are unlikely to be exposed to levels of solder residue, metal fumes, aldehydes ad carbon monoxide above the workplace exposure limits (WELs). The workplace contaminants associated with soldering and drossing at the concentration detected are not considered to be hazardous to health.
During the assessment we observed that the general ventilation in the factory is not fully operational and therefore is not diluting the workplace contaminants effectively allowing for the accumulation of odours in the workplace. However this accumulation is only minor so cannot be considered as hazardous to health. We strongly recommend that the general ventilation system is repaired so that it is fully operational and effective in providing adequate fresh air supply.
We recommend that respiratory equipment (RPE) is used when carrying out maintenance and cleaning (drossing) operations as these activities may result in short term high exposure situations. The employee carrying out these activities must dispose of single use RPE accordingly and not reuse it. Should employees use RPE correctly, a formal health surveillance programme is not necessary. It is the employers responsibility to ensure that employees are provided with thorough training on the safe use of hazardous substances within the workplace, the recommended control measures and all associated health issues. Refresher training should then be provided annually.