20 Aug PPE Use and Chemical Fumes
Emphysema, or silicosis, are both debilitating diseases of the lungs, which take no prisoners and are fatal. I’ve watched a close friend slowly die for eighteen months from this debilitating disease and it was not a pleasant time for all those close to him. From a man who roamed the hills pig hunting to a shell of a man who could not walk to his letterbox without an oxygen bottle as a constant companion, is something I would not wish on any one.
The tragedy of this is that his condition was avoidable and all because he did not bother to wear any face mask or other suitable protection when spraying his crops.
The subject and reasons of the benefits of PPE use is well documented and many businesses have good systems in place to ensure this is supplied and it is used.
My article is not to expand on this but to look at one of the reasons that require the use of PPE protection or for the extraction of the agent that brings about its use, the exposure to welding fumes.
Current HSE legislation
The old Health and Safety in Employment legislation requires the use of extraction of harmful fumes from a work place. I am amazed that I still witness so many engineering and metal manufacturing workshops that have not addressed this issue. A few years ago I had a number of rather heated and protracted discussions with a client regarding the installation of extraction systems for his manufacturing plant. He had seven welding stations in his steel fabrication business. To best describe the welding area would be to think of a 1950s factory with no windows, one sliding door and a 500 millimetre extraction fan in the apex of the roof.
My approach to get him to see sense in what he had created was by taking three action steps.
- I met him early in the morning in the wielding area and pointed out the floating welding dust in the air via the sun shining through the extractor fan. His employees had not even started work and this was the suspended particles of welding dust from the previous day.
- I then asked him if he would drive to Auckland with his family in his car with a leaking exhaust emitting fumes into the car. As to be expected, his answer was that his wife and car would get car sick. I then pointed out that what he was doing with his employees was no different and in fact he was not only subjecting then to a potential health risk that could affect their health through potentially contracting metal fume fever, but also breaking the Health and Safety in Employment Act and regulations.
- I had undertaken research and developed the following matrix from information via the internet, from local and international information, material safety data sheets, ACC, MIBE, accepted codes of practice (ACOPS), and other information regarding the management of welding fumes, exposure symptoms and extraction systems.
The matrix was the result. When I explained what it was showing and what his compliance and HSE responsibilities are, he then relented and decided to plan for and to implement the extraction systems.
In conclusion, this was a good result for all concerned and was proven to be a good risk management process for the protection of his employees and the business for its compliance responsibilities to health and safety legislation.
Be responsible for the health of the employees or face the consequences!
For any questions regarding how the Hasmate program can make employee PPE recording and reporting easy for your business, please contact us today.