Chemical exposure is possible at practically every worksite, and an employer is responsible for understanding the risk and how to safely handle chemicals. Not every chemical is in a labelled bottle – byproducts from processes, or produced by other chemical interactions may still cause harmful exposure and need to be monitored to ensure worker safety.
Chemicals may have acute or chronic effects, and there are generally accepted levels of exposure that are considered safe for certain exposure durations. However, this information is debated, often changes as new information becomes available, and is based on available data that may come from lab animal proxies, be self-reported or casually observed.
There are various routes of exposure, and these must be understood to handle chemicals safely. They may be skin absorbed, inhaled, injected, ingested, or exposed to the mucosa, causing all types of reactions. The exposure hazards highly inform what controls are appropriate for handling the material. The SDS describes all of this information (as much as is known).
Permissible exposure limits/Occupational exposure limits/Threshold limit values give some insight into how to measure exposure, and how to calculate multiple exposures. Short exposures or ceiling limits may be established for some substances. This is the stock-in-trade for specialists called industrial hygienists – what do they do?
IDLH are levels of exposure that will immediately cause health effects or death. Some discussion of where, when and how these occur, and how they are managed.
Cases to be covered:
- Carbon monoxide
- Endocrine impacts and the future of exposure