Louis Stokes Cleveland, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center JCAHO Environment of Care Series Fiscal Year 2009
You must receive adequate training in working with hazardous chemicals. You must have access to the Written Program of your host institution. Material Safety Data Sheets must be made available to you. You must be informed of hazardous chemicals present in your work area and of operations in which they are involved. You should know how to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical. You must be provided personal protective equipment and engineering controls. You must know the proper procedures for responding to emergencies. Key Elements of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard:
No chemical substance can cause adverse effects without first entering the body or coming to contact with it. There are four main routes for chemical substances to enter the human body: Health Effects – Modes of Entry Inhalation (breathing in) Absorption (through the skin or eyes) Ingestion (eating, swallowing) Transfer across the placenta of a pregnant woman to the unborn baby
The harmful effects of chemical substances depend on the toxicity and the exposure to that chemical. Toxicity is a property of the chemical substance, while the exposure depends on the concentration of the hazardous chemical and on the period of contact time. Many substances do not give any warning by odor, even though they may be present at dangerous concentrations in the workplace air.
Acute effects occur immediately or within hours. Effects can range from mild irritation to death. Generally speaking, if it doesn’t kill you, you will recover completely. Chronic effects, by contrast, may develop over months or years and may result in diseases such as cancer or asbestosis.
The capacity of different chemical substances to penetrate the skin varies considerably. Some substances pass through it without creating any feeling. Skin absorption is, after inhalation, the second most common route through which occupational exposure may take place. Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It provides a protective cover to the body but can fail if the load is overwhelming. A number of substances can penetrate healthy intact skin and enter the blood circulation. Phenol is a substance that may even result in death after exposure and penetration through the skin. Contact eczema, irritation and inflammation of the skin are the most common skin reactions to chemical substances.
The lung is the major route through which toxic substances enter the body in the workplace. It is also the first organ to be affected by dusts, metal fumes, solvent vapors and corrosive gases. Allergic reactions may result from exposure to chemicals, bacteria or fungi.
When dust particles of a certain size of some substances are inhaled the lungs are unable to remove them. The particles become embedded in the lungs causing a condition called pneumoconiosis. Pneumoconiosis is a specific problem for workers exposed to the dust of silica (quartz) and asbestos, and is the most common non-malignant occupational lung disease throughout the world.
The nervous system is sensitive to the hazardous effects of organic solvents. Some metals affect the nervous system, especially heavy metals such as lead, mercury and manganese. Organophosphate insecticides such as malathion and parathion interfere severely with information transmission (chemical neurotransmitter function) in the nervous system, leading to weakness, paralysis and sometimes death.
The blood circulation is a target for the adverse effects of solvents. Blood cells are mainly produced in the bone marrow. Benzene affects the bone marrow; the first sign is mutation in the blood cells called lymphocytes. Lead, in the form of the metal or its compounds, is another classic example of a chemical that may cause blood problems. Chronic lead poisoning may result in a reduced ability of the blood to distribute oxygen throughout the body, a condition known as anemia.
The liver, the largest of the internal organs of the body, has several important functions. It is a purification plant which breaks down unwanted substances in the blood. The liver has a considerable reserve capacity; symptoms of liver disorder appear only in serious diseases. Solvents such as carbon tetrachloride, chloroform and vinyl chloride, as well as alcohol, are hazardous to the liver.
The kidneys have the task of excreting waste products that the blood has transported from various organs of the body, of keeping the fluids in balance and of ensuring that they contain an adequate blend of necessary salts. They also maintain the acidity of the blood at a constant level. Solvents may irritate and impair kidney function. The most hazardous to the kidneys is carbon tetrachloride. Turpentine in large quantities is also harmful to the kidneys: `painter's kidney' is a known condition related to occupational exposure. Lead and cadmium are also harmful to the kidneys
Know the Symptoms of Overexposure to the Chemicals You Work With If you ever experience any of the following symptoms when working with solvents, report to your supervisor, to to employee health, and notify the safety office when you are able. Blurry Vision Dizziness Nausea Rash Vomiting
Time-Weighted Average or TWA TWA is the time-weighted average concentration for a conventional 8-hour workday and 40-hour workweek. This is the concentration to which it is believed nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, without adverse health effects.
TLV-TWA (Threshold Limit Value - Time Weighted Average) is a time-weighted average concentration for an eight hour working day or 40 hours a week to which nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed without adverse effect.
TLV-STEL (Threshold Limit Value - Short Term Exposure Limit) is the concentration to which workers may be exposed for a short time (usually 15 minutes) without suffering from irritation, long-term or irreversible tissue damage or impairment likely to increase accidental injury, affect self- rescue or reduce work efficiency. Daily TLV-TWA values should not be exceeded.
TLV-C (Threshold Limit Value - Ceiling) is a concentration that should not be exceeded at all during work exposure.
An effective control method for any hazardous chemical is substitution: a hazardous chemical is replaced with a less hazardous one. This is especially important when the chemicals in question can cause: cancer, damage to the reproductive functions, or create allergic reactions. Choosing a safer process or changing an old and hazardous process to a less dangerous one effectively reduces the risks. Examples of safer choices: Pellets or paste instead of powdered substances which readily produce high levels of dangerous dusts. Water-based paints and adhesives instead of harmful products containing solvents. Safe sterilizing agents instead of ethylene oxide.
Using Pellets instead of powdered substances reduces your exposure to dangerous dusts.
Material Safety Data Sheets An important reference for health and safety information is the Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS. A Material Safety Data Sheet is prepared for each chemical by its manufacturer. It describes the physical and chemical properties of the product, the health hazards, and appropriate emergency response procedures. Not all MSDS look alike, but they all contain the same basic information.
Labels are another good reference for information on chemical hazards. Labels on containers of purchased chemicals include: uThe common name of the substance. uAn appropriate hazard warning. uOther label information may include procedures for: Proper handling. Storage. Emergency response. Container Labels
Department of Transportation labels, which are typically found on the outside of shipping cartons, provide hazard information in an easy-to-read format. The labels are color-coded with the hazards depicted by readily identifiable symbols. These universal symbols are sometimes found on a container's label as well. DOT Labels
NFPA Labels Also valuable is the National Fire Protection Association's labeling system that shows the type and the degree of a chemical hazard. It is used on some chemical containers, but is most often found at the entrances to labs and chemical storage areas. The labels are diamond-shaped and color-coded. In each field, the degree of the hazard is rated from 0 to 4. Blue indicates the health hazard. Red indicates the fire hazard. Yellow indicates the reactivity hazard. White gives special information such as water or oxidizer incompatibility
If you are working in a laboratory that uses radioactive materials, you should: Recognize the warning or caution signs indicating the presence of radioactive materials such as those shown here. Be trained in specific safe work practices for your laboratory or workplace. Know and follow meticulously the safe work practices of your host institution. If you have concern about entering a laboratory where radioactive materials are handled, talk with your supervisor or the principal investigator. Working with Radioactive Materials
Read the label and the MSDS! Less than two of ten persons know how to protect oneself in handling of dangerous chemicals.
You can do a lot to protect yourself while working with detergents and hazardous chemicals. Wear long pants, a long- sleeved shirt or blouse, closed-toe shoes, a laboratory coat, eye protection, and gloves. When handling acids wear a rubberized apron for added protection. Personal Protective Equipment
Always Protect Your Eyes Safety glasses with side eye shields, splash goggles, and full face shields offer varying degrees of protection against splattering chemicals and airborne objects. Choose safety glasses with side eye shields when there is a splash hazard with a small quantity of a hazardous chemical, for instance, when opening or closing a bottle or popping open a microfuge tube. Personal Protective Equipment
Wear goggles when you are handling a chemical that is highly caustic or in a larger volume, perhaps a liter or more. Goggles Face shields Wear a face shield when you are handling a very large volume of a hazardous chemical, or when you need to protect your face and your eyes. For example, wear a face shield when you are removing a closed container from liquid nitrogen. Personal Protective Equipment
Wearing gloves is a simple and effective way to protect yourself from chemical contact, but the gloves must be resistant to the specific chemical with which you are working. Persons in Environmental Management Service, Nutrition and Food Service, Engineering Service should not wear latex exams gloves for protection. Many persons are allergic to latex. No glove material is impermeable to all chemicals, therefore, the most effective practice in using protective gloves is to change them frequently and whenever they are contaminated. Gloves Personal Protective Equipment
Asbestos lagging cloth Pipe Insulation The most common uses of asbestos in our buildings are pipe lagging and pipe insulation. Asbestos cement and lagging is used around pipe elbows and T’s. Asbestos- containing materials are replaced as areas undergo renovation with non- asbestos material. Asbestos insulation is not a health hazard unless is reduced to a powder.