Inspectors will be looking to ensure that those involved in any work related to hazardous substances know and reduce the risks, plan their work properly and are using the correct controls to protect themselves and their workforce. All workers should be aware of the substances they are working with (along with the generation of hazardous bi-products), including how they could get into their body and what the potential health effects are.
Know the risks
Hazardous substances come in many forms such as solids, liquids, vapours, gases and micro-organisms. Substances can even take on more than one form, e.g. paint spraying can produce fine mists of liquid droplets and also solvent vapour.
There are three main exposure routes for hazardous substances to enter the body, these are the lungs/airways (inhalation), skin (absorption/contact) and the mouth (ingestion).
A hazardous substance can cause ill health in different ways. Some effects are immediate, such as dizziness, headaches and nausea. Other ill health incidents, such as lung diseases, can develop over a much longer period, sometimes many years.
Plan your work
By planning your work, you should have a clear view of what substances are being used, who will be performing the task and where, and what the outcome will be. You should identify all health hazards that come with each task and determine who they will affect. Consider the likelihood of workers being harmed by these hazards and how serious the harm could be in order to assess the significance of them. Everyone within your workforce can help to identify solutions, involve your teams in managing health risks to develop a positive health and safety culture.
Reduce any risks
When your plans are complete, you must act on the information within them. Protect your people by completely removing, or adequately controlling the risks identified. Risks can be eliminated before any work starts by designing out the risks or using different materials or methods of work.
If the risk cannot be eliminated, it should be controlled. Control measures can include selecting effective controls such as LEV or the correct tools, providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and/or Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), work rotation and removing people from the work area who do not need to be there.
The final step is to train workers on each task to ensure the work is being carried out correctly and that everyone involved is aware of the risks and using the control measures that have been put in place. Regular reviews are needed to ensure that the risks continue to be minimised and employees follow the control measures needed to reduce their exposure to a level which is as low as reasonably practicable.