A timely reminder that automotive workers can be exposed to a variety of airborne substances such as dusts, fumes, gases, vapours, mists and smoke. Exposure to substances or mixtures in the workplace can occur through inhalation, absorption through the skin or ingestion.
Vehicle emissions, particularly diesel and chemicals used in automotive refinishing can lead to a serious problem, as there are both short-term and long-term effects.
Short-term exposure to high concentrations of diesel exhaust can include irritable eyes, nose, throat and lungs and light-headedness, coughing, phlegm and nausea. Very high levels of diesel exhaust exposure can also lead to asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Long term exposure can worsen asthma and allergies and increase the risk of heart and lung disease. Diesel engine exhaust emissions also contain many known carcinogenic substances.
Other sources of airborne contaminants include fumes from welding and painting and dust from vehicle sanding.
It is important the airborne concentration of a substance or mixture hazardous to health is kept as low as is reasonably practicable to minimise the risk to health.
To maintain a safe working environment for everyone, follow these safety solutions:
- Regularly inspect and clean ventilation and dust collection systems to remove dust build-up.
- Isolate the hazard by either enclosing processes or using a remote operation, such as pendant controls, enclosed vehicle cabs and control rooms.
- Consider the installation of local exhaust ventilation to capture dust and fumes at the source.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) that is suitable for the nature of the work and the hazard (e.g. gloves, masks, goggles, face shields and respirators) comfortable to wear, of a suitable size and fit, maintained, repaired or replaced when required and used by workers who have been trained in its use.
- Adopt good workplace hygiene practices, like having a regular cleaning routine where you vacuum or wet mop the floors instead of sweeping them.
- Consider your lunch rooms and/or non-work areas as clean zones, where contaminated PPE must be removed before entering.
In addition to the above, some parts of Australia have recently been affected by bushfire smoke.
Smoke from a bushfire is made up of large particulate matter from burning debris which irritates the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. The finer particles are able to penetrate deep into the lung tissue and are more harmful. Smoke also contains toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
Bushfire smoke can cause a number of health problems, such as shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, burning eyes, running nose, chest tightness, chest pain and dizziness or light-headedness.
Workplaces must have measures in place to manage the risks to health and safety when air quality is reduced, including:
- Arrange for work to be carried out indoors (where possible)
- Rescheduling outdoor work until conditions improve
- Ensuring plant is functioning correctly and has not been affected by dust or debris
- Cleaning any dust and debris off outdoor surfaces, and
- Providing personal protective equipment such as eye protection and correctly fitted, P2 rated face masks.
If you need advice or assistance, contact the WR team on (08) 8291 2000 or via email by clicking here.