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Decrease health risks with regular workplace exposure monitoring

If you work in an industry that is prone to regular exposure to a variety of harmful substances such as chemicals, fumes, dusts and fibres, you are required to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations to provide safe working environments for your employees.

A recent case study between The Allergen Monitoring Service at HSE’s Science and Research Centre and the University of Manchester looked into Shellfish processing: turning ‘waste’ into ‘resource’. Atmospheric monitoring amongst shellfish processors suggest that significant allergen exposure occurs in that sector.

While there may be good agricultural reasons to increase significantly the amount of ground shell in compost, the grinding of such shells to a fine material may itself be a higher-risk activity.

They were asked to quantify tropomyosin (TM) in an agricultural compost containing added ground, untreated shell waste from seafood processing. Tropomyosin is a known allergen found in the edible parts of certain shellfish; respiratory exposure to TM can cause allergic sensitisation, respiratory symptoms and occupational asthma.

Some 50-85% of processed shellfish is ‘waste’; estimated as 100,000 tonnes per annum. The agricultural sector has been looking at various ways of turning this ‘waste’ – expensive to send to landfill – into a ‘resource’ with value.

The case study identifies one route that has been tried, but where there is the possibility that allergen exposure is shifted to a wider worker population.

The work continues: an HSE-funded research project, led by UoM, is currently underway investigating symptoms and occupational exposure to seafood allergens.

Common hazardous substances in the workplace

Many industrial, agricultural and medical organisations use hazardous substances. The degree of hazard depends on the concentration of the chemical.

Exposure to chemicals commonly used in workplaces can lead to a variety of short- and long-term health effects such as poisoning, skin rashes and disorders of the lung, kidney and liver.

Common hazardous substances in the workplace include: 

  • acids
  • caustic substances
  • disinfectants
  • glues
  • heavy metals, including mercury, lead, cadmium and aluminium
  • paint
  • pesticides
  • petroleum products
  • solvents.

Possible side effects of exposure to hazardous substances

Health effects depend on the type of hazardous substance and the level of exposure (concentration and duration). A hazardous substance can be inhaled, splashed onto the skin or eyes, or swallowed. Some of the possible health effects can include:

  • poisoning
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache
  • skin rashes, such as dermatitis
  • birth defects
  • disorders of the lung, kidney or liver
  • nervous system disorders.

The importance of occupational exposure monitoring

Deterioration of controls could lead to serious health risks

  • Producing data to implement remedial actions effectively
  • Checking the effectiveness of your control measures
  • Ensuring workplace exposure limits are not exceeded
  • Identifying health surveillance needs

Reducing exposure to hazardous substances

Suggestions on reducing exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace include: 

  • where possible, perform the task without using hazardous substances
  • where possible, substitute hazardous substances with less hazardous alternatives (for example, use a detergent in place of a chlorinated solvent for cleaning)
  • isolate hazardous substances in separate storage areas
  • purge or ventilate storage areas separately from the rest of the workplace
  • thoroughly train employees in handling and safety procedures
  • provide personal protection equipment such as respirators, gloves and goggles
  • regularly monitor the workplace with appropriate equipment to track the degree of hazardous substance in the air or environment
  • regularly consult with employees to maintain and improve existing safety and handling practices.

The law requires organisations to adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health. This is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). Harmful substances include any materials or substances used or created at work that could harm your health.

Safety First’s occupational exposure monitoring

Exposure monitoring is needed for work with harmful substances, such as asbestos and lead may also be required as part of the COSHH risk assessments.

Our specialist team is highly qualified in the different methods of monitoring exposure. No matter how complex the issue, Safety First can find the right sampling strategy for you.

Safety First is experienced in delivering a complete range of occupational exposure monitoring services to provide you with confirmation that your control measures are adequate and workplace exposure limits are not exceeded.

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World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023

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When an Inspector Calls

Presentation from February 2023 HSE

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Occupational Hygiene

Risk Assessment ServicesBy 2023 occupational hygiene has been practised for around 300 years. Occupational hygiene is the practice of managing health risks at work such as inhalation of harmful substances or risk management to prevent accidents. It’s about controlling exposure to hazards, some of which are unavoidable.

Occupational hygiene covers both the businesses workforce, and the wider community. This includes ensuring that environmental noise and other hazardous levels are at a minimum so that the public won’t be at risk.

Types of occupational hygiene 

The five types of occupational hygiene risks are:

  • Environmental – Noise levels, pollution, dumped rubbish etc
  • Chemical – Hazardous chemicals, toxic substances that can be inhaled/cause skin irritation
  • Biological – Bacteria like Legionella, viruses and other mould or fungi that pose a risk to human health
  • Physical – Vibration, radiation, heat, fire, cold & slips, trips and falls
  • Ergonomic – Repetition, manual handling, awkward positioning, motion

There are many ways to control environmental hazards, it’s more about what is suitable for your company. All occupational hygiene services aren’t needed for everyone, but you may need more than one.

We suggest one, or some of the following services for any business where hazards are prevalent.

  1. Environmental Noise assessment – Some site noise can filter through to local residents. This becomes noise pollution and needs action asap. You can visit the HSE here for more information.
  2. Workplace Noise Assessment – Helping to safeguard against hearing damage caused by exposure to high levels of noise. Covered by the ‘Control of Noise at Work Act
  3. Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) – To protect workers from exposure to high-risk contaminants like dust, fumes and chemicals.

Services for managing chemical exposure include:

  • Occupational exposure monitoring – Lack of controls around exposure monitoring can have serious health effects a workforce. Exposure monitoring is essential if you have employees working with hazardous substances.
  • LEV testing – If you control dust inhalation at the source, your local exhaust ventilation system might need a check up! These systems usually decline with use, so monitoring every 12 months is essential.
  • COSHH – Data sheets and assessments

Contact us if you have any questions and we can offer guidance for your needs.


Merry Christmas 2022

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

This holiday season, we at Walker Health and Safety Services Limited pause and take advantage of the season to express our gratitude and appreciation to you for doing business with us.

Wishing you a year full of happiness and success.

All the best for 2023!