Styrene is widely used in the plastics industry. Styrene vapour can cause irritation to the nose, throat and lungs. Other symptoms can include difficulty in concentrating, drowsiness, headaches and nausea. The vapour and splashes are also irritating to the eyes and skin.
It is not possible to specify a ‘safe’ level to which employees can be exposed without a risk to their health. The work exposure limit (WEL) for styrene is currently 100 parts per million (ppm) averaged over an 8-hour day. There is also a short-term exposure limit (STEL), currently 250 ppm averaged over a 15-minute period. Employers should carry out assessments to identify what control measures are needed to reduce exposure to below these levels.
Provided that adequate controls are put in place to reduce exposure, there should be no damage to people’s health from the styrene in resins.
For more information on controlling styrene, see: Assessing and controlling styrene levels during contact moulding of fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) products .
Dust produced from grinding GRP can cause fluid to collect on the lungs, respiratory irritation and skin irritation.
There is no work exposure limit (WEL) specified specifically for exposure to GRP. However, there is a WEL specified for nuisance dust of 10 mg/m3 averaged over an 8-hour day, which would apply to GRP dust.
Employers should carry out assessments to determine what control measures are appropriate for grinding GRP. Possible control measures include the use of gloves / overalls etc to protect skin, good hygiene procedures to remove dust, and local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to prevent it being inhaled. You should also train and inform your staff of the hazards of GRP dust, the symptoms to be aware of if exposed, and what action to take if exposure occurs.
For more information on carrying out assessments, see: COSHH.
Hand knives are used widely in the plastics sector and can account for a significant proportion of injuries in individual companies. However, these injuries can be reduced in a number of ways:
For more information, see: How to reduce your hand knife injuries.
Before you intervene in a machine, whether carrying out maintenance, repairs or changing tooling, you should first work out your safe system of work (SSoW). The SSoW should be completed following a risk assessment and should consider issues such as:
Once you have assessed the risks and devised your SSoW, you should make sure staff are properly trained and provided with the necessary equipment to carry out the task safely.
For more information, see: Safe maintenance.