Workers producing coated fabrics handle solvent soaked coating material. They transfer a lump of the material to the coating machine. At the machine they spread the material with their hands.
They then clean their hands with solvent-soaked rags and they do this most of the day.
Handling solvent-soaked material is a good recipe for irritant contact dermatitis (ICD). There is significant absorption through the skin, which may cause ill health to other parts of the body (eg the kidneys or liver)
Handling solvent-soaked material appears to be a common practice in many industrial sectors.
Prevent or minimise the contact with solvent-soaked materials;
- The material can be transferred using a semi-automated dispenser, operated by a compressed air plunger on demand by the operator.
- The spreading could be done using a suitable stainless steel spatula, which will prevent the hands coming into contact with the material.
- Using the above procedures eliminates the need for cleaning the hands with solvents.
This type of solution can be applied in other industrial sectors.
- Reduction/prevention of ICD across the workforce.
- Reduction in back pain from continuous bending to collect the coating material from the storage bin and then transferring it to the coating machine.
- Reduction of work-related sickness absence due to ICD and back pain.
- Reduction in the use of solvents for cleaning hands leads to less emission into the environment.
- Financial savings because sickness absence and solvent use is reduced.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) require employers to ensure that exposure of their employees to substances hazardous to health is either prevented or adequately controlled by employing 'principles of good practice'.
- Employers should provide adequate washing facilities, changing facilities, facilities for eating and drinking and encourage their employees to use pre-work and after-work creams.
- Employers should only use personal protective equipment as a last resort.