Dealing With Fumes
One of the biggest risks to builders, construction workers, welders and many other fields of work is the fumes created by production methods, chemicals and cleaning goods. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that thousands of workers develop occupational diseases every year in the UK after they have breathed in dust, fumes or airborne contaminants at work.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to provide and maintain working conditions that are safe and without risk to the health of employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Fumes may include, but are not exhaustive to:
- Dust (including sawdust or cement dust)
- Chemical fumes
- Paint fumes
- Cleaning product fumes
- Smoke from fire or burning
- Rubber dust and fumes
- Oil fumes (when using petrol tools or vehicles)
Studies into the effects of dust and fumes in the workplace have shown increased risks of illnesses, from breathing difficulties to cancers. While some known carcinogens have been successfully prohibited or substituted, such as the excess of bladder cancer in the rubber manufacturing industry being eliminated by stopping the use of materials containing 2-naphthylamine and related chemicals, vigilance and management are still essential.
Risks can sometimes not be completely eliminated due to the nature of manufacturing, workplaces and materials. However, risks can be reduced and managed by taking steps to control them in your workplace and on a personal level.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Fumes In Workplaces
There are ways in which risks can be reduced, including local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and personal ventilation and protection.
To know what you need, you first need to identify the particular risks and the types of fumes. Then, you can use equipment dedicated to removing or controlling that fume. This needs to be as correct as possible, so the risk is fully managed.
Dust in construction and the workplace isn't like the pretty harmless dust we get in our homes. Dust on sites and in factories may include:
- Gypsum, cement, limestone, marble (non-silica)
- Silica dust (from cutting bricks and cement)
These dust forms can cause lung cancer, silicosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder and asthma, to name a few. Long-term exposure can result in health issues which only emerge years down the line, and are often untreatable.
How do you manage these? Well, hiring professional dust management equipment from Speedy Services can help to contain any dust produced. Dust suppression systems use water to settle any airborne dust, so it becomes less risk to workers. Dust extraction units are more focused on source extraction, for instance when using power tools, preventing dust getting into the air in the first place.
Tasks which involve a high level of dust production include using high-power tools such as cut-off saws, drills, grinders and wall chasers.
Which is for you will depend on the nature of your workplace, as well as the tools and materials used. For some workplaces, such as those which use a high amount of electricity, it may be inappropriate to have water-based controls in place. It is really important to carry out a risk assessment and talk to professional LEV installers or health and safety experts if you are at all unsure.
A fume extractor is more catered to removing fumes which we can't see, such as those from oils and chemicals, and providing fresh air in an enclosed workspace. This may be a factory, underground or any other enclosed space.
They are often connected to ducting, which removes the fumes from the room (ideally to outside).
Reduce the Use of Petrol Tools
Petrol tools give off fumes when used. This can not only be a danger to the health of workers, but can also mean increased downtime as workers will need regular breaks and fresh air, particularly if working in enclosed spaces with reduced fresh air flow. Even when simply being stored, oils and petrol can give off fumes.
Instead, switch to battery tools. No fumes, less risk of HAV hazards and with just the same amount of power. Try the MX Fuel range if you need something with loads of extra bonuses, too, such as security measures and tool tracking.
By now, you should know that PPE such as hard hats, safety boots and reflective clothing are essential when working on a site. Ear, eye and breathing protection is also available depending on the job at hand.
Breathing protection, such as respirator masks, can help anyone moving around on site to avoid breathing in airborne fumes. But something like a full Portwest Helsinki face mask may be better for anyone directly dealing with fume production, as it can also protect eyes, ears and skin and gives an even greater standard of personal fume protection.
Anyone dealing with flames and heat, such as working in welding, may be even better with something like the 3M Versaflow M-307, which also has a coated visor, airflow direction, added chemical and scratch resistance and a flame resistant face seal.
Housekeeping and Cleanliness
It is also important to maintain a good level of housekeeping in production and manufacturing areas. Regular cleaning programmes for each shift should be in place, to safely remove dust deposits. Vacuums, rather than brushes, will reduce dust.
As for fumes such as chemical fumes, having somebody regularly check that extraction and control units are working is essential.
Anybody dealing with fumes in the workplace, whether chemical or dust, should be trained and knowledgeable when it comes to knowing how to reduce the risk and control the effects.
Health and Safety training from Speedy can cover all sorts of job roles and risks, including quantitative face fit training for anyone who will need to fit the breathing apparatus examples above.
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