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Chemical Safety in the Workplace

Chemical Safety in the Workplace

Chemical Safety in the Workplace (and Occupational Health in general) is often overlooked when compared to Occupational Safety. The reason might be that the exposure to chemicals in the workplace might not cause illness or injury when exposure occurred, but months, if not years later. According to the Irish Cancer Society ‘work related cancer is increasing year on year with 5% of all cancers linked to occupation. Lung cancer represents nearly a quarter of all these cancers. Across Europe, exposure to cancer causing elements at work is estimated to cause at least 80,000 deaths a year. In Ireland this is over 400.’

The majority of the workplaces, across all industries use chemicals in some form. A number of chemicals are all around us to which employees could be routinely exposed. For example, paints, sprays, toners and inks, adhesives, petrol, solvents and not to mention a wide range of materials used in cleaning and maintenance such as detergents and oils.

All workplaces must assess the workplace against the risk of chemicals. These risks must be managed.

 

Why is Chemical Safety in the Workplace Important

Chemicals can cause serious harm. This harm can range from mild skin irritation to cancer. Whilst sometimes the effects of chemical exposure can be seen immediately after contact (e.g. chemical burn), some might be evident many years after the exposure (e.g. cancer – mesothelioma). Mesothelioma is related to asbestos exposure, continues to increase and it is estimated that about 56 people a year get this disease. There is no cure for this fatal form of asbestos related disease.

 

Chemical Safety in the Workplace and Key Duties of Employers and Employees

There are key duties for employers and employees under the relevant health and safety legislation:

Employers are required to:

Employees also have duties. They must:

 

Assessing Chemical Safety in the Workplace

A chemical risk assessment follows the same steps as a risk assessment for any other hazards in the workplace. For some additional information, please read eLearn Safety blog entry from 12 January 2024 titled Workplace Risk Assessment.

There are three basic steps to chemical risk assessment:

  1. Identify the Hazard: This involves identifying the chemicals you have in your workplace and the hazards associated with them.
  2. Assess the Risk: This involves assessing the risk from chemicals or processes in your workplace.
  3. Control the Exposure: This involves considering the various recognized control measures to eliminate or reduce the risk.

Please remember – if you are unsure of any aspect of managing chemicals safely in your workplace, you should seek help from a competent person.

 

Implementation of Suitable Control Measures

Once you have assessed the risk associated with the use of your chemicals, you then need to decide what control measures are required to keep you, your employees and your workplace safe.
At this stage you should also consider any current control measures that are in place, such as:

 

Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie

eLearn Online Health and Safety Training

eLearn Online Health and Safety Training

Asbestos in the Workplace

A number of Laws and Regulations have been made to ensure that workers are protected from risks related to exposure to Asbestos in the Workplace.

Asbestos is a name for a group of six naturally occurring mineral fibres. They are very strong and corrosive resistant material. However, it is now recognised that asbestos exposure can have serious health consequences.

Asbestos was extensively used as a building material in the Irish construction industry up until 1999. The majority if not all of the buildings built between 1940 to 1985 contain asbestos in some form. This is the time in which asbestos production peaked.

Asbestos has been widely used in construction for a variety of purposes. It was ideal for fireproofing and insulation, but its use was wider than this.  Asbestos was used in:

 

Dangers of Asbestos

Exposure of workers and the occupier to asbestos in the workplace can occur during uncontrolled asbestos removal or disturbance. Asbestos is the greatest single work-related cause of death from ill health. Past exposure is now responsible for thousands of people dying from asbestos related cancers every year.  This is expected to increase because it can take 15-60 years for the disease to develop and there is no cure.

According to the HSE Asbestos Fact Sheet, it is now recognised that the short-term high level inhalation exposure to asbestos has been associated with lung cancer, mesothelioma and pleural disorders. Further asbestos studies have shown that chronic inhalation is similarly detrimental to human health. The chronic exposure to asbestos is associated with asbestosis, pleural abnormalities, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

When materials containing asbestos are distributed, damaged or allowed to deteriorate, asbestos fibers can be released into the air. Asbestos fibers are potentially fatal if they are breathed in. Asbestos can also enter the human body through ingestion, though this is less common. The fibers can enter the lungs and damage them causing scars that stop the lungs working properly or even causing cancer.  According to the World Health organisation, asbestos is a proven carcinogen for which a safe air concentration cannot be established.

Anyone who disturbs asbestos containing materials, e.g., by working on them or near them, can be exposed to asbestos fibers. Those most at risk are those who carry out building maintenance and refurbishment work, e.g. electricians, joiners and heating engineers.

 

The Law and Asbestos in the Workplace

Duty holders need to manage the risk from asbestos in the workplace and make sure an assessment is made as to whether asbestos is, or may be present in the building. This includes where the asbestos is, or is assumed to be and what condition it is in. It should always be assumed that asbestos could be present until a full survey is done.

As with any work activity the requirements of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 (S.I. No. 10 of 2005) and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations, 2007 as amended (S.I. No. 299 of 2007 & S.I. No. 732 of 2007) apply and must be considered with respect to the protection of workers at the place of work. In addition, as regards specific work activities involving working with materials containing asbestos, particular attention must be taken concerning the requirements and control measures as outlined in the relevant asbestos related legislation. Such additional regulations are the Carcinogens Regulations, the Construction Regulations and Other Regulations (such as Confined Space, Work at Heights, etc).

 

Asbestos Awareness

According to the HSE Asbestos Public Health Advice, asbestos is present all around us. Traces can be found in small quantities in urban and rural air samples. We are all breathing in small amounts of asbestos fibers over our lifetimes.

Whilst we cannot always risk assess the environment around us, employers are required by law to identify all hazards in the workplace. This includes asbestos in the workplace. You can read more about workplace hazards in our Workplace Hazards blog from 24 February 2023. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 (No. 10 of 2005) imposes specific duties on employers to provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to their employees to ensure their safety, health and welfare at work.

The eLearn Safety online school offers a fully online Asbestos Awareness course. The aim of this course is to provide information on the identification and the prevention of occupational illness from exposure to respirable asbestos fibres.

 

Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie

 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment, or short PPE, is according to the Hierarchy of Risk Controls the last control method used to control risk. According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA):

“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) means any device or appliance designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards. Respiratory Protective Equipment Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is a particular type of Personal Protective Equipment, used to protect the individual wearer against inhalation of hazardous substances in the workplace air.”

In other words, PPE includes any equipment or clothing intended to be held or worn by people at work to offer protection against identified problems.

Where more than one item of PPE is required to be used simultaneously, e.g. hearing defenders and safety helmet, the items must be compatible and must not interfere with the level of protection offered by the individual items. Many manufacturers offer integrated systems which might be used provided they abide to certain rules.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE ) must be provided free of charge by employers – employers cannot pass on to employees any financial costs associated with duties relating to safety, health and welfare at work. 

 

Personal Protective (PPE) Rules

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 , Part 2 Chapter 3 covers Use of Personal Protective Equipment at work. Broadly speaking all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must:

Personal protective Equipment (PPE) must meet certain EU requirements and standards which confirm it meets specified safety and various test criteria. Generally PPE that carries CE mark will meet these criteria.

European Union (Personal Protective Equipment) Regulations 2018 provide that PPE may not be placed on the market or brought into service unless it complies with basic health and safety requirements. It is deemed to be in conformity with the Regulations if it bears the CE mark”.

It should always be remembered that PPE does not change the hazard in any way. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) offers protection for the wearer only.

 

Types of Personal protective Equipment (PPE)

When a Risk Assessment indicates that PPE should be used, it is important to choose the right type to protect different parts of the body.

Some of the types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are:

Personal protective Equipment (PPE) should only be used if the hazard cannot be controlled any other way.

 

Training in Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

All employees required to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided with suitable information, instruction and training (including training in the use, care or maintenance of PPE) to enable them to make proper and effective use of any PPE provided for their protection.

 

Further Guidance on the Requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations

For additional guidance on the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations, please refer to the relevant Personal Protective Equipment Guidance to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007.

 

For online Health and Safety training solutions, please check our Online Health and Safety Training portal!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie

 

Occupational Health

Occupational Health is the promotion and maintenance of physical and mental wellbeing of all staff. Health problems directly related to a person’s job are defined as an occupational illness.

Some hazards, such as skin contact with chemicals causing short-term irritation and/or rashes are known as acute illnesses. For more information try our fully online Chemical Safety course. Chronic illnesses develop gradually and their effects may be irreversible, e.g. loss of hearing. Some may even appear years after the time of employment, e.g. asbestosis. For more information try our fully online Asbestos Awareness course.

 

Specific Health Hazards

 

General Health Hazards

As well as specific health hazards there are some general things that may affect all workplaces:

Smoking

Smoking and passive smoking have been linked to lung cancer, irritation to the respiratory system and other harmful effects. The Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Act 2004 (No. 6 of 2004) placed a ban on smoking at all enclosed places of work from 29/03/04 to protect persons at work from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. This includes office blocks, aircraft, trains, company vehicles, health premises, schools, colleges, cinemas, theatres, licensed premises and clubs, if any of these places is your place of work. The smoking ban also applies to common areas within buildings. This means, for example, that corridors, lobby areas and reception areas of buildings such as apartment blocks and hotels are also covered. For more information, please consult Citizens Information service. In addition, try our fully online Workplace Safety course.

 

Alcohol

Alcohol increases the time it takes to react to situations, affects behaviour and reduces performance. For more information try our fully online Behavioral Safety course.

 

Drugs

Substance abuse may cause health problems and can cause safety hazards in the workplace. Many drugs are particularly dangerous because they cause mood changes and alter people’s perceptions. Even prescribed drugs may have a detrimental effect. As with alcohol, the condition must be addressed. For more information try our fully online Behavioral Safety course.

 

Violence

Verbal abuse, threats, bullying or assault can cause stress and concern as well as physical injury. Staff should be encouraged to report all occurrences to their supervisors who should record and objectively investigate the details and if necessary report to the relevant authority. For more information try our fully online Bullying Awareness course.

 

Stress

A large percentage of sick leave is due to stress, either due to personal reasons or the physical or emotional pressure of the job. Stomach and skin conditions, heart disease and depression have been linked to stress. Factors influencing stress in the workplace include poor working conditions, overwork, job insecurity, peer pressure including harassment, unrealistic targets and poor management.

Employees should be encouraged to report stress and management should be trained to recognise the symptoms and causes of stress such as inability or reduced ability to cope with normal tasks and situations, increased sick leave and/or poor time-keeping. For more information try our fully online Workplace Stress Awareness course.

 

It is very important to have an effective occupational health management system in place. There are sound economic reasons for reducing work-related accidents and ill-health, as well as ethical and regulatory reasons. Businesses that manage safety and health successfully invariably have a positive safety culture. Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

 

For online Health and Safety training solutions, please check our Online Health and Safety Training portal.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie