Air monitoring, inhalation exposure surveys, personal dust sampling, static fume monitoring, call it what you will, the measurement of levels of airborne contaminant in the air which we breathe is key in the prevention of occupational disease.
Over thirteen thousand new cases of industrial respiratory disease a year tell us that inhalation exposure is a significant issue; an issue that employers must take seriously if they are going to comply with the law and prevent industrial injury claims.
Nickel fume exposure from welding stainless steel causes asthma and Chromium causes cancer.
Metalworking fluid mist causes asthma. Respirable crystalline silica in sand based building products causes cancer.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 made everyone responsible for everything. Full stop. No loop holes.
Regulations made under the act are just the same. Everyone at work has responsibilities. Under the COSHH regulations the employer must assess the risks to health from using or generating substances.
The employer must use controls to prevent harming employees’ health. The employer must prove that the controls work to reduce personal exposures to acceptable levels.
In the Midlands where Workforce First is based, most of our clients come from engineering companies supplying the automotive industry. Our top three exposure survey requests are for welding fume, dusts and isocyanates, closely followed by metalworking fluid mist.
What does a survey entail?
We visit our client at the quotation stage to find out about the issues and who is being exposed to what. In other words we identify the hazardous substances and determine the number, type and duration of samples required. At the quotation stage we look up the verified sampling methods, the limits of detection and exposure limits. Once we can work out what equipment, analysis and time on site is required, we prepare a transparent itemised quotation. Prior to the survey we assemble the sampling equipment. We always maintain equipment in good condition, serviced and calibrated. Sample media specified by the methods used is delivered by the analysis laboratory.
HSE, Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances;
MDHS 14/4 aerosols and MDHS 25/3 isocyanates.
Once on site we introduce ourselves the operators with whom we will be working. We chat to them about their work, fit samplers onto them and observe their interactions with the tasks and controls.
Field notes are taken in sufficient detail to ensure that the surveys are reproducible. We look at the weather and its effect on natural ventilation.
We note the products made and volume produced.
We observe and photograph occurrences that could lead to increased or decreased emissions or exposure, such as agitation of parts or leaning over the task or the use of a vacuum rather than an airline.
We critically appraise the controls, whether it is extraction or masks.
The sampling method is followed. Deviations are noted.
The report which we email to our client within 3 to 4 weeks is clear and concise. The air monitoring results are compared with the relevant exposure limits, or guidance values in the case of welding fume. We advise on the health effects of the substances monitored.
The observations are discussed in relation to the results with photographs showing why exposures were high or low.
The reports conclude with the overall degree of risk from the results and whether further controls are required.
Recommendations are made that include quick fixes and engineering controls that should be considered to control emissions and exposures. We will also state whether health surveillance is required.