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Employer H&S emissions checklist – does your business comply?

All businesses – large or small – have a legal obligation to ensure a safe working environment for their people.

This means maintaining a dust and fume-free workplace through the removal of solid particles (particulates), liquid droplets (usually aerosols or mists) and vapours or gases. This is critical, because the health consequences for employees working in a hazardous environment can be significant and permanent.

The vast majority of employers take welfare very seriously, but there is also a rigorous compliance regime in place to enforce workplace standards.  

Indeed, the Health & Safety Executive and Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service pursued 342 prosecutions in the year 2019-20, with a conviction rate of 95%. These actions led to fines totalling to £35.8 million* – so for companies there is a clear financial (and reputational) incentive – leaving aside the overriding moral obligation – to get things right.

So review our checklist to make sure you comply.

1              Have you analysed your production process?

Emissions are produced through activities such as laser and ink jet coding onto food and pharmaceuticals packaging, soldering, welding, laser cutting and engraving, spraying, and hand and mechanised grinding.

Exposure levels to potentially harmful airborne emissions are tightly mandated through the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazard to Health) regulations and are expressed as workplace exposure limits (WELs).

By law, businesses must assess the risk to health by taking account of any relevant WELs. This means making sure that any such exposure is either prevented or properly controlled, for example through effective extraction or, as a last resort, by using personal protection equipment. Employers must also provide training for workers who are likely to be exposed to a hazardous substance.

You can find out more about sector-specific extraction technology by clicking here.

2              Can you prove you’ve identified employee health risks?

Not all airborne emissions present significant risk to human health. It is those contaminants measuring 2 to 3 microns that are of particular concern for respiratory function because these can penetrate into the alveolar lung region more than any others. Moreover, while particles of less than 0.5 microns will mostly be exhaled, if soluble they can diffuse into the blood stream.

The effect of exposure on health can range from headaches, eye irritation and skin problems to respiratory damage, occupation asthma, damage to the central nervous system and cancer.

Potential health problems are often associated with plastics and solvents, which can give off Volatile Organic Compounds, all of which have associated WELs. PVC is worth a special mention since it releases hydrogen chloride and small amounts of phosgene, both of which are extremely toxic.

To understand the health risks associated with your industry sector, click here.

3              Can you demonstrate your extraction system is effective?

From a process perspective, airborne fume and dust is caused by ineffective local exhaust ventilation.

Employers have a legal obligation to install the most effective extraction system. Typically, this would include captor hoods, using a capture velocity in front of a nozzle; receptor hoods, which use the movement of particles / droplets towards the device to capture them; partial enclosures, which extract contaminants typically for hand grinding and finishing; and full enclosures matched to the needs of automated production in say laser coding or PCB manufacture.

Every system must be thoroughly inspected and tested at least every 14 months, with records kept of the examination and test results for at least 5 years. These need to include details of substances, including their WELs.

To find out more about local exhaust ventilation testing, click here.

4              Need to find out more?

At BOFA, our technology portfolio serves sectors as diverse as laser, electronics, mechanical engineering, printing, 3D printing, medical, pharmaceutical, dental and beauty.

We’re here to help businesses keep their people safe. We’ll work with you to map any airborne risks associated with an industrial process and then provide guidance to help you choose the most appropriate extraction solution.

And remember, poor dust and fume management not only exposes workers to risk of harm, it also has a negative impact on productivity through downtime caused by equipment contamination.

For a conversation about the best extraction system for your business, contact us.

Sources

* https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/enforcement.pdf