A recent IOSH magazine webinar in partnership with EcoOnline reflected on COSHH ill-health statistics in the manufacturing industry. With almost 3,000 viewers, lots of questions were asked. Here we answer some of those we didn't get to.
Where does mould sit in lung disease stats?
Mould is not directly referenced in the HSE lung disease stats, or in lung disease UK, but it is known that moulds produce allergens, irritants and toxic substances. Breathing in mould spores can cause respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. These conditions would be covered by the other causes of death under HSE lung disease death stats, which contributes 3% of estimated annual deaths (12,000 total deaths, 3% 350).
Do you think medical surveillance is an effective way to monitor exposure levels for harmful substances in the workplace?
The most effective way to measure exposure levels is through exposure monitoring, giving a value of contaminant in the air and in the operatives breathing zone comparing against the WEL/OEL in the Eh/40. Medical surveillance is more focused on the operatives health, a baseline is required to measure the impact of exposure to harmful substances. The ideal situation would be to conduct health surveillance of new employees as a base line. Then to conduct exposure monitoring for the task to determine levels of airbourne contaminants. This will allow suitable control selection based on the levels and how under/over they are compared to the WEL/OEL. Then, after a specified period of time, conduct health surveillance to see if there are any changes in the operatives health dependant on the chemical involved these tests will be different.
Can household cleaning products contribute to asthma?
There are cleaning products on the market that can cause occupational asthma. Hazard code H334 may cause respiratory irritation or asthma like symptoms. Chemicals that can cause this are enzymes typically found in washing powders, chemicals that produce chlorine, glutaraldehyde, quaternary ammonium compounds. However these chemicals are often found in professional cleaning such as in hospitals where cold sterilisation is needed for heat sensitive equipment such as surgical instruments and dialysis instruments. But some household cleaning products can cause occupational asthma (washing powder containing enzymes), but not likely at a quantity and frequency of use in a typical household. If used on an industrial scale, multiple times a day in a workplace, then occupational asthma is a risk.
What are the main causes behind the reduction of exposure to isocyanates after 2014?
The main reasons for this is knowledge of impacts and health effects of isocyanates improving with the HSE giving guidance on mandatory controls for spraying isocyanates. A lot of guidance from HSE regarding biological monitoring, how to control risks and also managing exposure through spray booths/rooms. Along with manufacturers providing good information in their SDS to help employers comply with COSHH regulations when using isocyanates.
Is there a standard of carpet for office areas to minimise fibrous shedding to avoid issues for people with asthma?
There is a standard BS 5325 for installation of textile floor coverings. It acts as a code of practice and it gives guidance and recommendations that are designed to help and inform anyone who installs textile flooring in new or existing buildings. Carpet in commercial areas is a low pile nylon carpet as it has a durable fibre and can handle heavy traffic. For susceptible individuals with asthma, either installing or removing carpet should be done with open windows if possible to provide a fresh supply of air. If not possible, then fans can be used to create a mechanical ventilation and supply fresh air to the area. Operatives can also wear particulate masks either p2 or p3 to filter the airborne fibres from the air.
Is there a function in EcoOnline Chemical Manager to search a single chemical within a product?
There is not the capacity with EcoOnline chemical manager to search for a specific constituent within a mixture. However, this is available in EcoOnline Sypol CMS system, which builds COSHH assessments using a chemical database allowing for automatic classification updates from REACH or ECHA classification updates without the need for a new revision of SDS from a supplier. But you can also search for specific constituents within all of your products.
rly RFI- between the potential health effects of unspent White Phosphorus (assumed to be on/in soil/water) as opposed to WP smoke (dispersed). Representing the MOD use of chemical used on training Ranges.
Unspent White Phosphorus (WP) munitions could contain unreacted WP if it’s buried in the soil or located underwater. When exposed to air, WP is unstable and will oxidize to Phosphorus pentoxide, which is the same material as present in WP smoke once this reacts with atmospheric moisture. WP is a highly flammable solid, is pyrophoric, and can catch fire spontaneously when exposed to air. It’s also corrosive and highly acutely toxic if particles are ingested or swallowed, and can cause chronic long term liver damage if ingested in small amounts. When encountered as dispersed WP smoke outside, concentrations of Phosphorus pentoxide and its reaction products with water vapour in the air are unlikely to be of harm to human health during transient exposure. But in more confined environments the WP smoke can cause eye and respiratory irritation, along with contact dermatitis and skin irritation on prolonged exposure.
Can the effects of smoking and harm from occupation exposure be separated?
In the case of individuals, a link between smoking and cancer can generally only be inferred and not proven absolutely as it can for some other cancers, e.g. mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. For larger populations, a statistical analysis of cancer cases between smokers and non-smokers who have had similar occupational exposures should clearly show statistically significant and quantifiable differences in cancer rates.
What about Silicosis? I think it is on the rise due to the cutting of engineered stone tabletops, which is an emerging issue currently.
Respirable crystalline silica (RSC) is present in all stone. In natural stone the percentage of RCS varies between 5-50%. The issues with engineered stone is that it contains up to 95% RCS and this is released through cutting, grinding and polishing processes when dry cutting methods are used. But also in poor cleaning procedures where dry brooming, use of compressed air and using non-H class HEPA filtered vacuum cleaners. To control dust, engineering controls are recommended to eliminate dusts at source, as there is a high likelihood of other workers being in and around the area. Engineering controls include the use of water suppression feeds on cutting and grinding equipment. Also local exhaust ventilation (LEV) should only be used for cutting or grinding equipment where the LEV is part of the tool’s design, is fitted to the tool where dust is generated, includes a HEPA filter, or designed hoods or a fitted LEV system.
Can you please tell us the risks of wood dust within the occupational asthma element?
Both softwood and hardwood dust are classified as contaminants that can cause occupational asthma. There are case studies on HSE about woodworkers not being able to play football anymore due to exposure to wood dust that caused asthma, and also other woodworkers developing occupational asthma from making garden sheds. This dust can be controlled with LEV (Local exhaust ventilation) which can remove the dust produced from the source, and prevent it from entering the atmosphere.
This can be a static unit if in a workshop, where these activities happen on a regular basis, or integral extraction on the tools used with a collection bag. The other option would be the use of RPE (respiratory protective equipment). This is a last resort as if this fails the operative will be exposed to the airborne contaminant. These respirators should be either P2 or P3 (P3 recommended for hardwood dust due to the carcinogen risk). All tight fitting RPE should be face fit tested to ensure the seal of the mask is suitable for the user. This is a legal requirement, needs to be documented, and is only valid for that person and that particular mask.