Your lungs are so important. What goes into them and comes out of them determines how you live. Striving for quality of life is inherent in us all. Lung disease is not. We must endeavour to give our lungs the best shot at life, free from carcinogens, irritants, chemicals and fumes.
Rubber manufacturing usually consists of the processes of raw materials handling, milling, extruding, component assembling and building, curing, inspecting, finishing and storage and dispatch. Hazardous substances can include fumes and fine dusts. COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation 2002) requires employers to assess the risk to health caused by dusts and fumes. Exposure must be prevented or adequately controlled by doing a risk assessment. For controlling dust fumes, employers can use dust suppressed materials, for example, pellets and oil coated powders. Enclosed and automated bag and powder handling is also a safe way of handling dusts. Workers should refrain from handling powders directly; automated system machinery should be in use. An effective local exhaust system should be used and maintained regularly during the work processes.
PPE should be worn, for example, gloves, aprons and safety glasses. Adequate personal washing facilities should be available and separate from the eating and rest areas. Good housekeeping should be the norm and industrial vacuum cleaners used. Respirators would not be needed if adequate fume and chemical controls are in place. However, they may be needed for short term exposures, for example, when filter bag changing or general maintenance. Training of workers in the use of respirators is essential. Because the rubber industry is ever changing, new processes may introduce new risks. Hopefully, they can be learned from without dire consequences happening to highlight the risk. Whilst COSHH doesn’t set out specific requirements for the rubber industry, it does set out the basic system of managing risk to health.
Simple steps to making a COSHH assessment in any industry
- Simply walking around the work place can highlight obvious and taken for granted risks. Some substances will have workplace exposure limits (WELs); the limits need to be maintained.
- The employer should have safety data sheets on information about their workplace. Workers can be exposed to dust, fume, vapour and dermal contact with liquids and dusts. Some dusts are very fine and might not be immediately apparent.
- The hazards should be identified, mitigated against and a control system set up to be in place.
- It should be ascertained who is likely to be harmed, how and when, and, the health severity to the worker.
- The accident book may be a good reference when redesigning processes to make them safer and when considering a new factory floor layout. There can be lessons learned.