Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Substances
Little Hampton was home to our next project, a factory which specialises in the production of plastic components for automotive and retail industry. The client requested our services in order to carry out an assessment of occupational exposure to hazardous substances. The factory operates a continuous production with working shifts of varying lengths, the typical break time is 30 minutes which the employees spend away from the production areas, so the overall exposure time is considered to be 11 and a half hours. Our surveyor’s overall objectives of the assessment were to measure the atmospheric concentration of; respirable/inhalable dust, plastic thermal decomposition products (such as formaldehyde and acrolein) and of volatile fumes within the working environment. From these measurements our surveyor is then able to establish the daily personal exposure of employees at risk and advise our client on suitable risk control.
Substances Hazardous to Health
The work in the blow moulding and injection moulding areas involve the supervision of machinery, handling of moulded components, trimming and stacking. The operatives working in these areas are likely to be exposed to plastic thermal decomposition products such as formaldehyde and acrolein and small quantities of plastic dust from grinding.
The secondary production processes are carried out in the centre of the production floor, next to individual machines or in the tool shop. The work in this area involves manually painting produced components using a variety of paints. At the time of our assessment the components were being painted by Q14 product by Trimite Global Coating which contains xylene and ethyl benzene as well as other hazardous components.
The employees working in the grinding area are likely to be exposed to plastic dust. The general ventilation in the factory is provided by wall mounted extraction fans and the ventilation in the injection moulding area is provided by the shutter door which is mostly used during the summer time.
Minimising Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Substances
When our surveyor concluded the indoor air quality assessment the air monitoring results suggested that the employees are unlikely to be exposed to levels of respirable and inhalable dust, decomposition products from plastic moulding operations above the workplace exposure limits (WELs). Therefore we concluded that there is adequate control of contaminants within the workplace and the use of respiratory protective equipment is not required. If respiratory protective equipment is used than only the correct type should be provided. The disposable respirators currently used are only suitable for protection against particulates and must not be used for protection against organic vapours. Due to the results of the assessment our surveyor did not believe that a formal health surveillance program was required. They also recommend that all employees should be trained on health risks from hazardous substances within the workplace, control measures, their use and maintenance. Employees should be provided with regular refresher training at least once a year.