8th September 2017
Employer H&S emissions checklist – does your business comply? Part 1
All businesses – large or small - have a legal obligation to ensure a safe working environment for their people.
This means maintaining a dust and fume-free workplace through the removal of solid particles (particulates), liquid droplets (usually aerosols or mists) and vapours or gases. This is critical, because the health consequences for employees working in a hazardous environment can be significant and permanent.
The majority of employers take welfare very seriously, but there is also a rigorous compliance regime in place to enforce workplace standards.
The Health & Safety Executive and Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service pursued 696 prosecutions in 2015-16, with a 95% success rate and £38.3 million of fines compared to £18.1 million in 2014/15 – so there is a clear financial (and reputational) incentive, leaving aside the overriding moral obligation, to get things right.
In the first of our two-part blog, we look at the importance of analysis and evidence to ensure you comply…
1. Have you analysed your production process?
Emissions are produced through activities such as laser and ink jet coding onto food and pharmaceuticals packaging, soldering, welding, laser cutting and engraving, spraying, and hand and mechanised grinding.
Exposure levels to potentially harmful airborne emissions are tightly mandated through the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazard to Health) regulations and are expressed as workplace exposure limits (WELs).
By law, businesses must assess the risk to health by taking account of any relevant WELs. This means making sure that any such exposure is either prevented or properly controlled, for example through effective extraction or, as a last resort, by using personal protection equipment. Employers must also provide training for workers who are likely to be exposed to a hazardous substance.
You can find out more about sector-specific extraction technology by clicking here
2. Can you prove you’ve identified employee health risks?
Not all airborne emissions present significant risk to human health. However, the effect of exposure to hazardous contaminants can range from headaches, eye irritation and skin problems to respiratory damage, occupational asthma, damage to the central nervous system and cancer.
Remember though that just because particles cannot been seen, it doesn’t mean they are not there - particles less than 20 microns in size are not visible to the naked eye, unless they are part of a dense cloud.
Contaminants measuring 2 to 3 microns in size are of particular concern for respiratory function because these can penetrate into the alveolar lung region more than any others. Moreover, while particles of less than 0.5 microns will mostly be exhaled, if soluble they can diffuse into the blood stream with sometimes harmful consequences.
Potential health problems are often associated with plastics and solvents, which can give off Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
, all of which have associated WELs. PVC is worth a special mention since it releases hydrogen chloride and small amounts of phosgene, both of which are extremely toxic.
To understand the health risks associated with your industry sector, click here
News story - Part 2