Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Skin Contact and Ingestion Act As Alternative Routes of Entry
While inhalation is generally the most significant route of entry for hazardous chemicals and contaminants, it may not account for all types of worker exposures. When considering employee exposures to chemicals and contaminants, safety professionals rely on the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits, ACGIH Threshold Limit Values, and other occupational exposure limits. These standards focus on inhalation. Skin absorption and ingestion should be considered, along with injection in medical settings.
Skin contact with chemicals is a possible route of entry into the body. Dermatitis, the most common occupational disease, begins at the skin surface and is caused by direct contact. A wide variety of organic and inorganic chemicals can produce contact dermatitis. Some materials can be absorbed into the body and increase the total chemical load to the body. In such cases, skin absorption may represent the most significant exposure pathway. Examples of chemicals used in the workplace that can potentially result in systemic toxicity include pesticides, solvents, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hydrogen cyanide, and metallic mercury.
Ingestion of chemicals can also contribute to a worker’s exposure. Hazardous metals and pesticides are the most common sources of exposure while pharmaceuticals, some infectious agents, and unsealed radioactive sources can also be significant. Ingestion occurs when employees are contaminated through direct or indirect contact with an agent and the material enters the body through eating, drinking, or other hand to mouth contact.
If you suspect significant skin contact or ingestion hazards, follow these procedures:
- Conduct an assessment.
- Review safety data sheets and other materials about skin and ingestion hazards. Check for notations on occupational standards for dermal factors.
- Determine whether ventilation, enclosures, and other engineering controls are effective, and add new controls as needed.
- Do not allow employees to eat or drink in areas where hazardous chemicals are present.
- Provide PPE and protective clothing as needed. Check manufacturer and other protective material permeability and degradation information for each affected chemical.
- Contact a medical professional to determine whether medical and biological monitoring through urine and/or blood analysis is feasible. The ACGIH provides a list of biological indicators.
- Provide facilities including bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, and eating areas to control contamination at work and off-site. Keep these areas as free of contamination as possible.
- Properly clean uniforms and dispose of contaminated materials.
- Provide warning signs in affected areas and train employees on all routes of exposure and how they can control their exposure.
Inhalation of chemicals is not the only source of exposure. Be aware of skin contact and ingestion hazards and control them effectively. For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at www.occusafeinc.com.
OccuSafe Environmental and Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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