Solvents as Safety hazards: An analysis

Author- | Posted- | Updated: January 24, 2017 |

Analysis of a safety hazards with Recommendations: Solvents

Industry-wide solvents are used in several sectors in variety of jobs. They are chemical substances that are used to dilute other chemicals. They are mixed with several other chemicals to dilute them for purpose of use. There are several industries like chemical industry, engineering, construction, woodworks and similar other industries where these solvents are used. However, the use of these chemicals can be dangerous for workers. Their prolonged exposure can give birth to diseases. If the workers inhale these dangerous solvents or these chemicals come in contact with their skin, they can give birth to dangerous side effects. The workers can also swallow the solvents by mistake. The effect of these solvents can also be lethal and can have both long and short term effects on the health of the workers. If inhaled they can cause irritation in lungs or give rise to headache and nausea. They can also cause skin irritation. The effect can be on head and eyes causing impairment. This can also result in increased instances of accidents. There are several health and safety risks related to the industrial solvents and based on it, the risk and severity of this hazard can be serious.

Solvents can give rise to moderate to high risks. The short term problems that can arise from prolonged exposure to solvents are dizziness of skin, irritation of eyes and several other problems and health risks. There are several activities doing which the workers may come in contact with solvents. However, the probability of contact with solvents is always high.   There are several activities in woodworks, painting and plastics manufacturing industries where the workers come in regular contact with solvents. So, the frequency of contact with this hazard is also high. Based on this assessment, the risk code serous can be assigned to this hazard.  In areas where solvents are used in high amounts, proper ventilation must be available.  Workers must wear Proper Protective Equipment while working with solvents and must immediately report any kind of damage to the PPE or ventilation system to the appropriate authorities. Workers must avoid coming in direct contact with the solvents. They must avoid skin contact or inhalation of the solvents.  Solvents can enter the body as vapours and fumes through the nose. They can get in contact with skin either through soaked clothes or directly and get absorbed. Workers can also swallow liquid solvents accidentally. However, the dangers of solvents are not limited to just the above discussed problems but they can also be lethal. High concentrations of solvents can be dangerous. Exposure to them can cause unconsciousness and even death.

What precautions are to be kept?

Workers can be safe if they have proper knowledge of these solvents.  Information and training provided to the workers can save them from several dangerous risks associated with solvents. If workers have knowledge of solvents, it will minimize the risks. They will be able to keep proper precautions if employers provide them with proper information. The workers must remain well informed about the solvents they have to use, how to sue them and what to do in times of emergency. The safety data sheets provided by the suppliers and the product labels must also be put to use in such cases. Employers must provide proper clarification whenever employees require. Workers must also ask employers if safer solvents, solvent free materials or materials having lower solvent content can be used.

How to properly control vapors?

It is the employers’ responsibility that they adopt proper vapor controls to protect the employees from vapors arising from solvents. The workers must also report any type of damage or defect in the ventilation plant or to the PPE. Workers must also protect their lungs by wearing proper Respiratory Protective Equipment provided by their employer. All the protective equipment must be kept in a clean and safe place where it remains fit and usable. The workers must also make proper use of natural ventilation and keep the doors and ventilation open. Solvent must be used in minimum amount and just as much essential for the job. The lids of the containers must be kept closed. Solvent contaminated rags must not be left lying around and must be disposed off properly.

How to avoid skin contact?

 The use of paint scrapers is advisable for removing paint instead of using solvent based paint stripper. The workers must use water based paints instead of using solvent based ones. Engineering controls must also be used appropriately. LEV captures the airborne contaminants and prevents them from landing on the skin or surface that come in contact with skin. Instead of using their hands, the workers must use automated handling or tools. Procedural controls must also be employed like barriers or splashguards and restrict access. Gloves, Aprons, Goggles or faceshields must be used appropriately such that the workers can get necessary protection from   solvents and contaminants. The employers must also ensure that PPE is checked regularly and replaced as necessary. Maintenance of the personal protective equipment is essential.

What precautions to keep when working in confined spaces?

Many times the workers have to work in confined spaces where the air supply is reduced. Presence of solvent vapors in such confined spaces can be dangerous. Solvent vapors do not escape easily and can become dangerous when their concentration increase inside confined spaces. Concentration of vapors in such spaces can be dangerous as it becomes inflammable, poisonous and explosive. These vapors can displace the oxygen content in the air and cause suffocation. Either the workers must avoid entering the confined spaces or keep proper precautions when they have to enter. So, unless the area is properly ventilated the workers must not use solvents. They must avoid entering the confined spaces wherever there are solvents inside because it might be dangerous to enter it. Workers must also wash themselves well after having worked with solvents. They must not eat or smoke in the areas where solvents are used. One last thing to be cautious about is that solvents can be toxic and inflammable and so any fire must not be lit there.   

Sources:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg273.pdf

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.