What hazardous substances are employees exposed to?
For our most recent project we were invited to a converted farm building in Hilton. Our client’s company specialises in the production of custom made articles of furniture, so employees are expected to be exposed to wood dust and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). It is our job to attend the site and take measurements of the wood dust and VOC’s in the indoor atmosphere in order to calculate the occupational exposure to hazardous substances. This will allow our client to make any changes to their policies/procedures if necessary.
Conducting an assessment of hazardous substances
Our surveyor begun the assessment with an inspection of the property. He found that there was no active ventilation and fresh air supply in the production area, the only source of ventilation was during the summer via an open shutter door. During the working day it is believed that the total exposure time is considered to be 9 hours.
In order to monitor the air quality our surveyor took samples of airborne particulates and vapours. He did this using Cassella and Gillian Personal samplers. Samples of inhalable dust were also collected using a 7-hole sampling head, fitted with QMA filters (25mm, 1.6µm). Lastly our surveyor collected samples of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). One collected, our surveyor would then be able to analyse the results and recommend the appropriate remediation measures for our client in order to keep their employees safe in the workplace.
So are employees at risk of exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace?
Our assessment revealed that the daily personal exposure levels of employees in relation to inhalable wood dust in the air are significant therefore, are likely to exceed the assigned workplace exposure limits (WELs). However the personal exposure levels to VOC’s during paint spraying are unlikely to exceed the workplace exposure limits therefore no further action is required in the paint spraying area.
Recommendations to minimise exposure
Due to these results our surveyor had several recommendations for our client in order to minimise employees’ exposure to hazardous substances. He strongly recommended that respiratory protection was introduced during the use of portable woodworking equipment as he believed this was the root cause of exposure. Our assessment also indicates that a formal health surveillance programme may be necessary in order to ensure that the health of employees is not effected.
It is also strongly recommended to install an adequate active fresh air supply into the workshop area in order to improve the air quality and to prevent the backflow of wood smoke and other potentially hazardous combustion products into the working areas. As in any workplace it is also important that adequate training is provided so employees are up to date with COSHH training and any changes to the legislation.