Construction Safety Week 2019 – Day 5: Working Safely with Hazardous Substances

Friday, 25th October – Working Safely with Hazardous Substances

Many workers are exposed to hazardous substances while at work. According to EU-OSHA, the industry sectors with a high prevalence of dangerous substances include agriculture (62%), manufacturing (52%) and construction (51%)

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If uncontrolled, these substances may potentially impact on a worker’s health and contribute to either acute or long-term health problems (eg, skin irritation, respiratory diseases and cancer), or safety risks in the form of a chemical reaction, fire, explosion or suffocation.

The Chemical Agent Regulations 2001 and 2015 outline a specific requirement to complete a chemical agents risk assessment of the chemical agents used in the workplace, which include the following steps:

  1. Identify the chemical hazards
  2. Consider who might be affected and how they might be harmed
  3. Evaluate the risks – current controls and further precautions
  4. Document and implement your findings
  5. Update and review as required.

Where concrete, stone or sand-based materials are altered (during formation, cutting, drilling, polishing or demolition) and made airborne, there is a potential for exposure to crystalline silica dust. Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) occurs when these materials are worked on to release a very fine, inhalable dust. When any dust is inhaled, its point of deposition within the respiratory system is very much dependent upon the range of particle sizes present in the dust. The respirable fraction (smallest particle size) of crystalline silica dust can penetrate deep into the lungs. Elimination and substitution of RCS containing materials, dust extraction and/or dust suppression are the primary measures advised to control potential exposure.

The EU’s Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive has been updated and has classified RCS as a category 1 carcinogen. This will come into effect in EU member states as of 17th January 2020.


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