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Protecting Employees from Hazardous Chemical Exposure

Most industrial operations invariably involve the handling of hazardous chemicals in some form. This can range from using small amounts of alcohol for cleaning to being exposed to welding fumes for an entire shift. Employee exposure to chemicals is inevitable but employee overexposure is entirely preventable.

Employees may be inadvertently overexposed if you don’t have a grasp on the chemicals in your workplace and understand the exposure paths. This could easily become a huge problem down the road if you don’t have a handle on employee exposure. To determine actual chemical exposure, the only accurate approach is to measure. Because litigation is always adversarial and expensive, more than one industrial operation has been relieved to find that employee exposures are known and been quantified.

You can attempt to monitor the workplace yourself if you have the right experience and skill set. However, this is rarely the case and there are compelling reasons to engage an outside expert to perform this task, but finding the right one can be a challenge. Your decision to outsource can be guided by many variables, including the following:

  • Contractors have a specialized skill set. This is a big deal. Contractors have specialized degrees, skills and have real word field experience. Challenges don’t phase them, because no project is exactly like the next.

  • They know about the best equipment. For specialized work, purchasing or renting equipment can be a gamble and quite expensive. Contractors know the best equipment to use, often owning it themselves.

  • You hire them for exactly the amount of time as you need. Depending on the timeline of your project, you might need a professional service for only a short period of time. In this case, hiring a contractor is almost always ideal.

  • They are dedicated to their clients’ needs. Contractors make a living working for their clients, which really is a win-win. By nature (and necessity), they take time to understand clients’ needs and problems so they can carefully formulate the best solution.

  • You can form lasting relationships with them. Working with a trusted and experienced contractor will lead to long-term security and confidence. Once you find someone you really trust, it makes it easier to return to them for new or repeat tasks. It never hurts to grow your professional network, either (chances are they will refer you to their network, too).

CFR recently conducted an IH survey at a label manufacturer that used several solvent-based inks. The initial sampling plan called for monitoring the solvents found in the vendor SDSs. Upon collection of the samples, a laboratory contracted by CFR found additional hazardous compounds present that were not listed on SDSs. CFR was then able to make recommendations for administrative controls to reduce employee exposure to levels below the permissible exposure limit. This ensured employees were not over exposed and was done with little in the way of capital costs.

CFR has a long history of performing industrial hygiene surveys across a myriad of industries, including painting, printing and welding operations. Contact CFR for a free consultation for industrial hygiene services and comprehensive employee health and safety needs.

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