Health & Safety

Where will it all go wrong? - Melanie Brown

Feb 10 2011 Read 2826 Times

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Taking valid workplace air samples 6 common pitfall areas and how to avoid them

It is now generally recognised and accepted that many substances, gaseous, vapour or particulate are potentially harmful to humans, either through inhalation or skin contact. Inhalation and skin contact should therefore be prevented or limited in order to prevent ill health, whether that is a chronic or an acute effect. Although the primary driver should be to use safer materials or failing that, utilise engineering controls, often the reliance has to be a mixture of the use of personal protective equipment, together with administrative controls. Such a situation is not a modern phenomenon, since as long ago as 54AD, Pliny the Elder, issued sheep bladders as masks to refiners working in mercury mines.

As the years have passed since Pliny, a considerable amount of thought and effort has been devoted to the subject of exposure control. This thought process has evolved into one area attributed to the profession of Occupational Hygiene and follows those principles: - • Recognition • Evaluation • Control. For exposure to airborne hazards, Occupational Health and Hygiene professionals have long relied on the taking of air samples to assess and reduce exposure. If there were no scientific measurements to quantify a hazard, how would levels be assessed and compared with any degree of accuracy or be correlated against the exposure limits?

Equipment for carrying out air samples has developed over the years and the range of available techniques has improved in accuracy, repeatability and cost. However, a spectrum of choice is not a benefit when it means more opportunities to make the wrong choice.

There are pitfalls involved with taking an air sample, however, most can be easily avoided. Here are six areas in which even the expert could fall down.

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