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Preventive measures at the work place

Preventive measures at the work place

Patients with “solvent damage in the nervous system” has for several years been one of the largest groups with approved occupational disease in Norway. The condition became known in Norway at the beginning of the eighties, and preventive measures were initiated to prevent and reduce organic solvents exposure at the work places. This has been successful, and today there are relatively few patients receiving this diagnosis in Norway. One of the occupations with most organic solvent intoxications, were the car painters. Using painting booths and protective equipment has totally removed the problem.

More systematically, preventive measures of relevance can be summarized like this:

  1. Information
    Employers and employees working with organic solvents must be informed about the health risks, and the solvents required at the work must be proper marked

  2. Evaluation of the work place
    The work places should be evaluated, to find the source of exposure and to find the working tasks where exposure takes place.

  3. Substitution
    Also, where possible, the process/work needs to be evaluated; maybe the organic solvents can be replaced with less dangerous products. This has happened in the painting business; today many paints do not contain organic solvents, they are water based instead.

  4. Reduction of exposure levels
    Exposure levels can for instance be reduced by ventilation. Another possibility is to enclose the process involving organic solvents from other activity, by using separate rooms – as for instance using a spraying boot.

  5. Respiratory protection
    Where it is necessary, respiratory protection must be used. The equipment must be available! Filter masks can be used, where the worker breathe through a filter. The filter absorbs the organic solvents, if it is of the correct type; organic vapor cartridge. Be aware that there are different types of filters in the market, and you must chose the correct one. Also, powered, air-purifying respirators can be used. They also have filters, but in these a stream of clean air is delivered to the wearer through a battery-powered motor blower, like shown in the video clip from the car repair shop earlier in this session. When using masks with filters, it is important to change the filter after use. It is impossible to give information on the time a filter will be effective. That will depend on the concentration of the organic solvent in the air. A filter must be changed if the worker can smell the solvent inside the mask. If the mask has been used for a short period, it can be used again if it is stored in an air-tight box. It the mask is not stored properly, the filter will continue to absorb pollutants and may not be working efficient the next time you start using the mask. You can also use air supplied respirators. Such equipment is more effective, and you need not consider filters. However, the workers do not always like these, as they are connected to a hose bringing the air. This reduces the possibility of movement.
    Also, some workers do not like to have a mask which covers the eyes with a screen. The screen may reduce the sight.

There are many websites with information on chemicals and how to protect workers from exposure. One of them is: NIOSH pocket guide to chemical hazards

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Occupational Health in Developing Countries

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