Chemical and Biological Hazards
Exposure to chemicals that are hazardous to health should be appropriately controlled in accordance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
COSHH requires that all exposure to hazardous substances at work is risk assessed whether they are:
- Working directly with the substances (e.g. adhesives, paints and cleaning materials)
- Generating the substances during the work activities (e.g. fumes from soldering and welding)
- Naturally occurring substances (e.g. wood, grain and coffee dust, animal dander)
- Biological substances (e.g. bacteria)
Peritus Health Management has a 5 star approach to managing hazardous substances
- Identifying and assessing health risks – our specialists in occupational health, safety and hygiene can identify your health needs and undertake air monitoring to help assess your risks.
- Controlling exposure – where risks are identified our specialists can provide you with an action plan to help you eliminate or reduce your risks and check you are selecting and using suitable and sufficient personal protective equipment.
- Information and training – with extensive experience in vocational education, our occupational hygienist can deliver short tool box talks or intensive training for Health Risk Champions specific for your business.
- Health surveillance – our competent occupational health clinical team can deliver health surveillance activities at our place or yours. If you don’t have the room but want the convenience, we have a mobile screening van, fully equipped with all the equipment we need to provide you with a comprehensive screening programme
- Analysis of use and impact on health needs – we don’t just leave you with a report when we’ve done. We can work with you to evaluate the outcomes of action taken and identify priorities for future health risk reduction and management.
Substances and appropriate surveillance may include:
- Chromium – review of respiratory function, blood or urine chromium
- Formaldehyde – review of respiratory function and skin
- Platinum – review of respiratory function
- Gluteraldehyde – review of respiratory function and skin
- Isocyanates – review of respiratory function and urine for breakdown products of isocyanates
- Methanol – review of urine methanol levels
Part of the control measures that are put into place to eliminate or reduce biological risks to health may be an immunisation programme. Immunisations are available for a number of biological hazards including: polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, etc.
Some of these immunizations are recommended by the World Health Organisation for everyone in general or for those traveling to certain areas and so employees may be already immunized against the biological hazard.
Is Health Surveillance required?
Health surveillance is required where:
- risk assessment identifies that there is residual adverse health affect due to exposure to chemical or biological hazards, (single or mixed exposure);
- it is reasonably likely that damage to health may occur under the particular conditions at work;
- a specific and sensitive test available to identify the adverse health affect, and
- steps to manage the onset of disease are available
Is it a legal requirement?
COSHH required health surveillance in the following circumstances:
- where an employee is exposed to one of the substances listed in schedule 6 to COSHH and is working in one of the related processes e.g. manufacture of certain compounds of benzene, and there is a reasonable likelihood that an identifiable disease or adverse health effect will reslts from that exposure;
- where employees are exposed to a substance linked to a particular disease or adverse health effect and there is reasonable likelihood, under the conditions of the work, of that disease or effect occurring and it is possible to detect the disease or health effect.
What does the surveillance entail?
The type of surveillance will depend on the nature of the exposure and will be discussed in detail with the customer on enquiry. In general terms, health surveillance includes:
- A full occupational and exposure history
- Past medical history
- Test required to identify the adverse health affect (e.g. urine or blood test, spirometry)
- Interpretation and explanation of the results to the individual
- Provision of information leaflet relevant to exposure
- Completion of ‘surveillance report form’ for Personnel Records.
How often should surveillance be done?
This depends on the nature of the exposure.
Pre-employment baselines may be required so that a previous exposure history can be taken and reference levels identified. This also prevents the new employer being held responsible for previous exposure.
Surveillance is then repeated regularly. The frequency will depend on the nature of exposure and the disease process likely under those circumstances. Some exposures will require 3 monthly surveillance, others 3 yearly.
What happens if abnormalities are detected?
This again depends on the nature of exposure. Surveillance tests may be repeated pre-shift or post shift for comparison or further tests may be indicated.
Results of the tests will be reviewed and restrictions to exposure may be placed on the individual until further investigations are completed.
We have clear escalation processes in place to manage any health concerns identified. All COSHH assessments and Data Hazard Sheets are forwarded to the Specialist prior to the appointment.
If diagnosis of occupational ill health is made, the disease may need be reported to the Health and Safety Executive under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
Restrictions to exposure may need to be made permanent and redeployment options may be considered.
Risk assessments should be reviewed in light of diagnosis.
Want to find out more?
For more information about our health services, contact us