Occupational exposure monitoring

It's estimated that 18,000 of self-reported new cases of breathing or lung related problems are due to exposure at work, some of the contributing factors can be minimised or removed altogether with some cost-effective ways to provide a cleaner and safer workplace for employees.

 

Recently, we detailed the potential hazards caused by noise and fumes in the work environment within the transport and logistics industry. Here we focus on occupational exposure and the potential hazards which can affect employees across all industries. [See article]

Many people work in environments where they are exposed to a variety of substances such as chemicals, fumes, dusts and vapours, which could be classified as ‘hazardous to health’. In order to determine how to protect workers from these substances, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations impose duties on employers to monitor exposure to hazardous substances.

Hazardous substances in the workplace can include:

  • substances used directly in work activities (e.g. paint, cleaning chemicals, disinfectants)
  • substances produced during work activities (e.g. dust fumes from welding)
  • naturally occurring substances (e.g. grain dust, silo and slurry pit gases)
  • biological agents (e.g. bacteria and fungi)

Eliminating exposure

Changing the way you work can reduce the need to work with hazardous substances in the first place, or prevent them being created; or you could replace a hazardous substance with a safer alternative. Any one of these simple measures can help to reduce potential exposure,

Controlling exposure

However, when there  is no alternative but to use a hazardous substance, then every precaution must be taken to minimise risk to human health.

Engineering controls, such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV) will help to remove toxic fumes from the workplace. There is a statutory requirement for LEV systems to be tested at least once every 14 months, and in some situations they might need testing more frequently. [See article]

Have you assessed your risk? Do you know if there are adequate control measures in place?

When carrying out exposure monitoring, they should be carried out on a busy day with processes running normally, particularly when monitoring exposure, and remember exposure monitoring is not an alternative to managing exposure.

Exposure monitoring is measured against workplace exposure limits (WEL’s), which are concentrations of hazardous substances in the air, averaged over a specified time period. These are set to help protect the health of workers, and ideally, they will be informed of the results of a monitoring event in their place of work.

If at any point you are unsure what your employees are being exposed to in the work environment, please get in touch with one of our team to discuss how we can help, our reports include key recommendations on any changes that could make a positive impact with regards to your working practices and protecting your employees.

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Ben Massey

Business Development - Occupational Health & Hygiene +44 (0) 1235 437 100 EMAIL
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Milton Keynes | UK
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Matt Bates

Technical Director - Occupational Hygiene +44 (0) 1235 437 100 EMAIL
Milton Keynes | UK
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Tracey Bailey

Business Development Manager - Occupational Hygiene +44 1235 437 100 EMAIL
Milton Keynes | UK

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