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Asbestos Exposure at Work

Asbestos Exposure at Work

Asbestos exposure at work is the primary cause of mesothelioma and asbestosis. Being around asbestos puts people at risk for several types of cancer and serious pulmonary diseases. While asbestos was widely used in construction until recently, some occupations have higher risks of exposure to asbestos in the workplace.

 

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring mineral silicates. Asbestos is strong, inert, resilient and flexible and therefore almost indestructible. On paper, this material would appear as the ideal material. Indeed, until recently it was used in a wide range of products requiring heat resistance and insulation properties. However, today we know without doubt that asbestos is responsible for asbestos-related diseases such as cancers of the chest and lungs. These diseases will not occur immediately and can take from 15 – 60 years to develop.

There is no safe level of exposure to any form of asbestos! For additional information about asbestos in the workplace, please see eLearn Safety blog entry from 16th June 2023 titled Asbestos in the Workplace.

 

Why is Asbestos Exposure Dangerous?

Asbestos exposure is very dangerous. Asbestos produces its effects because of the size, strength, sharpness and rugged shape of the tiny fibers it releases. In addition, some of its chemical characteristics play a role. The health hazards arise when these small fibres become airborne and enter the body. The body’s natural defence mechanisms can reject large, visible dust particles and fibres. Unfortunately, small fibres reaching inner tissues are those that are both difficult to remove and the most damaging. They are particularly dangerous because they cannot be seen by the naked eye under normal circumstances. Furthermore, they are too small (less than 5 microns in length) to be trapped by conventional dust filter masks.

To learn some essential information about asbestos hazards, we recommend the eLearn Safety 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.

 

Asbestos Exposure at Work

Asbestos exposure at work mostly refers to construction related activities. However, not only construction workers can become exposed to asbestos. In addition to construction workers, firefighters, industrial workers, power plant workers, shipyard workers and any other persons exposed to asbestos dust can become affected.

Asbestos found in construction work is usually encountered in the demolition or refurbishments processes. However, even simple jobs such as drilling partitions or removing ceiling tiles can disturb asbestos dust. It is important to be aware that asbestos can be found in composite materials such as concrete products and tiles. Asbestos was used as an additive in these products to provide strength, durability and flame resistance. Therefore, neither the colour nor the fibrous look of a substance is a reliable guide. The only reliable identification of the presence of the asbestos is by microscopic analysis in the laboratory. It is therefore safe to assume that any building built (or refurbished) in Ireland before the year 2000 might contain asbestos. A detailed survey will be required to identify where asbestos is present in your building. An asbestos survey must be carried out by a competent person.

 

The Law

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations, 2006 and 2010 are the key regulations relating to asbestos in the workplace. In simple terms, any work with asbestos insulation (for example, pipe/ thermal insulation), asbestos coatings (for example, ‘limpet’ spray coating) or asbestos insulating board must be carried out by competent specialist asbestos contractors. Any maintenance or repair work with asbestos insulation, spray coatings or asbestos insulating board should be restricted to specialist asbestos contractors. Specialised training is required for workers involved – see Section 9 of the HSA Guidance Document.

All asbestos removal or abatement work must be carried out by competent persons who have sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work to be undertaken. This must include practical training. An asbestos awareness course is not sufficient. The asbestos awareness course is a general asbestos awareness course recommended for anyone in the construction industry for general asbestos awareness.

Section 12 of the HSA Guidance Document provides advice on selection of a specialist asbestos contractor.

 

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 Myelearnsafety 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 asbestos-exposure-at-work

eLearn Online Health and Safety Training

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

Cleaning and Food Safety

Cleaning and food safety are inseparable terms. A clean kitchen is one that has been thoroughly cleaned to prevent the contamination of food by living and non-living contaminants. Cleaning safely does not mean cleaning areas and surfaces you can see only. Cleaning safely means cleaning in places you cannot see.

 

Priority Cleaning and Food Safety

High priority cleaning should be given to items that are frequently touched. Examples include water taps, door handles, light switches, etc. These should be cleaned more than once a day to prevent contamination and should be cleaned and allowed to dry naturally after every shift. Allowing items to dry naturally removes the chance of contamination by using towels.

A kitchen must be properly cleaned and sanitised. It is of utmost importance to follow the guides and instructions provided with the cleaning agents to prevent chemical contamination of food.

 

Cleaning Plan

The following six-point cleaning plan is one example of achieving cleaning and food safety:

  1. Pre-clean. Remove all debris and loose dirt (e.g., sweep floors, wipe work surfaces).
  2. Main Clean. Remove grease and waste using detergent and appropriate cleaning materials with hot water.
  3. Rinse. Remove detergent.
  4. Disinfect. Use the appropriate agent. Always follow manufacturers instructions.
  5. Final Rinse. Use potable water to remove all traces of disinfectant.
  6. Dry. Air dry or use disposable towels to avoid the chance of contamination by reusable towels.

All kitchen work areas should be cleaned after each task.

You can find out all about essential food safety in eLearn Safety fully online food safety course Food Safety (HACCP) Level 1 which is based on the training criteria set down by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s Guide to Food Safety Training Level 1.

There are many additional resources available online that look into great detail of cleaning and food safety. For example SafeFood has plenty of very useful information on their website page titled Kitchen hygiene and food safety.

 

General Advices on Cleaning and Food Safety

To keep the kitchen clean, always ensure the following:

Never store chemicals in the same area as food. If food gets contaminated, it can seriously harm all that consume contaminated food.

 

Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) 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

Spores and Toxins in Food

Spores and toxins in food can be a cause of a serious food poisoning. Spores are a bacteria’s survival package. Some bacteria when faced with adverse conditions such as rising temperatures will form a survival spore. A spore has a protective shell which can withstand higher temperatures than those reached in cooking.

 

Spores in Food

Water boils at 100°C. This means that most of cooking will be only a little hotter. However, spores can survive temperatures of up to 120°C. When the heat returns to room temperature, the spore opens.  Once this happens, the bacteria starts growing to form another colony. This is why hot holding at temperatures above 63°C prevents spores become active, whereas rapid cooling does not give a chance to spores to open.

Two common spore-forming bacteria are Clostridium perfringens and Bacillus cereus. Some foods such as red kidney beans simply need to be cooked to break down the toxins and render them harmless.

 

Toxins in Food

Some toxins are produced by careless defrosting food (e.g. scombrotoxin). Toxins are poisons that are produced by bacteria and plants. Toxins can be deadly, such as that produced by Clostridium botulinum. The verocytotoxin produced by E. coli and its relatives causes damages to kidneys and the intestine. This may result in death, especially in the elderly and the very young. Seafood can also contain dangerous toxins. One of these toxins can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Paralytic shellfish poisoning as the name suggests, causes paralysis. Shellfish such as mussels feed on smaller animals that produce this toxin. In large groups these animals can be seen as a red bloom known as ‘red tide’. There are monitoring systems such as satellite images, that warn where and when shellfish must not be harvested.

 

Spores and Toxins in Plants

Plants can contain toxins. Some toxins are produced by moulds. These toxins include aflatoxin, which can seriously harm the liver. Such toxins are found in cereals and dried fruits that have been poorly stored. All these examples demonstrate the importance of always obtaining quality food from reputable suppliers.

 

Preventing Food Poisoning

 

Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) 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