Chemicals (substances) in the workplace pose a risk to health arising from skin contact and inhalation. Fumes, dusts and gases can result from the storage, use of and handling of chemicals. Damage to skin, irritation and damage to eyes are obvious concerns from contact with liquid substances. Inhalation of dusts, aerosols, gases and vapours can cause immediate, or delayed long-term health problems.
There is evidence that the number of people in Australia who die, or are seriously ill as a consequence of exposure to chemicals is of a scale larger than that associated with motor vehicle accidents. More than 2000 people a year die of illnesses caused by workplace chemicals. Probably hundreds of thousands of people have long-term health problems relating to their chemical exposures at work.
Many of these chemical related health problems are not easily recognised by the legal processes if people attempt to get workers’ compensation for their illness. Prevention is crucial. Determining whether there is excessive exposure to chemicals may require measurement of airborne concentrations of chemicals, and a knowledge of the symptoms people might experience if levels are are causing health problems.
Information on the chemicals contained within workplace substances can be found in Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s), which by law should be provided to workplaces and available in workplaces. SDS’s should be recent (less than 5 years old) and specific to the chemical or substance which is being used or stored in the workplace. These SDS’s should have relevant exposure standards listed within the document.
Exposure standards (as concentrations of chemicals in the air) relevant to the inhalation of chemicals exist for more than 700 of the more common toxic chemicals. A risk assessment of exposure to any of these chemicals may involve monitoring of concentrations of the chemical in the air. This is a specialty of occupational hygienists who have studied another scientific or engineering discipline before becoming an occupational hygienist.
EnvirosapHe has been involved in monitoring of airborne concentrations of a wide range of chemicals in a variety of situations. Michael Beale, the principal consultant with EnvirosapHe did a major report on exposure to cutting oil mists in the Ammunition factory in Footscray back in 1986 and has monitored for chemicals detailed in the the “Our Services” part of this website.
Note: Envirosaphe is said as envirosafe.