SAFETY SOLUTIONS:In-Plant Air Monitoring & Analysis
Every business owner should be aware that there are
stringent OSHA standards limiting Air Contaminants:
hazardous substances that are found in the
workplace and represent a danger to the health and welfare
OSHA regulations that require employers to control
employee exposure to air contaminants are covered in
Subpart Z. The first section, 1910.1000, lists the permissible
exposure limits for over 500 air contaminants and the
priority of control methods to be used. Each of the remaining
sections deals at length with one specific substance. The
substances regulated, however, represent only a small percentage
of those identified as health hazards. Employers
must keep track of all chemicals in the workplace and look
for any information on health affects that could be caused
by any of the substances in use.
OSHA has a standardized form, the Material Safety Data
Sheet, which is useful as a fact sheet on the properties and
potential hazards of a chemical. Employers can assess the
risks of using any chemical by compiling the information
called for on this form. It covers chemical composition and
specific information on health hazards, reactions that may
allow the formation of hazardous by-products, correct protective
equipment and procedures for handling spills, leaks
OSHA regulations for air contaminants require that
employers identify the foreign substance present, obtain
accurate, reliable measurements that actually reflect
employee exposures, design and install engineering systems
that can control emissions, monitor contaminant concentrations
and choose effective respiratory protection.
OSHA’s air contaminants standard sets Permissible
Exposure Limits (PELs) and provides other information such
as ceiling values and eight-hour-time-weighted averages.
The standard (1910.1000) also contains three tables, Z-1, Z-2
and Z-3 that provide air contaminant limits.
To achieve compliance within safe limits, you must first
develop feasible administrative and engineering controls.
Then, if necessary, use protective equipment or other protective
measures to keep the exposure of employees within
prescribed limits. Any such equipment or technical measures
must be approved for each specific use by a competent
industrial hygienist or other technically qualified person.
Any respirators used much comply with 1910.134.
Are carcinogens present in your workplace? OSHA has
identified the following 13 substances as carcinogens, some
that may be used in the plastic industry, and set regulatory
standards regarding their manufacture, use and storage: 4-Nitrobiphenyl, alpha-Naphthylamine, methyl chloromethyl
ether, 3,3’-Dichlorobenzidine (and its salts), bis-Chloromethyl
Ether, beta-Naphthylamine, Benzidine, 4-Aminodiphenyl,
Ethyleneimine, beta-Propiolactone, 2-Acetylaminofluorent, 4-Dimethylaminoazo-benzene or N-Nitrosodimethylamine.
Commonly in use in our industry are Trichloroethylene,
methyl ethelketone (MEEK) and tetrahydroferon, which are
not considered carcinogens, and methylene chloride, which
OSHA calls a potential workplace carcinogen. There are
specific recommendations for handling these materials,
including the use of protective clothing and eyewear, working
in vented areas and with respirators when necessary,
proper storage of open materials, such as fire-resistant cabinetry,
monitoring expiration dates and proper disposal of
old and unneeded materials. You can obtain specific information
on the safe use and exposure to these substances
from the OSHA web site: www.osha.gov.
There are very stringent regulations and requirements for
areas containing carcinogens and recommendations for exposure
to non-carcinogenic substances. Regulation areas must
be established for all workplaces within the scope of these
standards, and controls must be set up as required.
Employees must wash their hands, forearms, face and neck
upon each exit from the regulated area, close to the point of
exit and before other activities. (Note: This wash-up requirement
does not apply to methyl chloromethyl ether, bis-chloromethyl
ether, Ethyleneimine and beta-Propiolactone.)
Personal protective equipment requirements can be found
on the OSHA web site, in particular the requirement for respirators.
Please check further under 1910.134 if you have
In the event of a leak or spill, any maintenance and decontamination
activities that may expose the employee to a carcinogen
should be handled as follows: Authorized employees
entering the area must wear clean, impervious garments
including gloves, boots and continuous-air supplied hood as
required by 1910.134; be decontaminated before removing
the protective garments and hood and are also required to
shower upon removing them.
In emergencies, these and any other appropriate measures
must be taken immediately;:
- Evacuate the potentially affected area; eliminate the hazardous
conditions and decontaminate the potentially affected
area before resuming normal operations.
- Institute, within 24 hours, special medical surveillance by
a physician for employees present in the affected area, and
include any medical surveillance and treatment in the incident
- Require any employee who has contact with the carcinogen
to shower as soon as possible, unless physical injuries
Deluge showers and eyewash fountains with running
potable water near, within sight of, and on the same level
with, places where direct exposure to the carcinogen would
be most likely because of equipment failure or poor work
Storage or consumption of food, and storage or use of beverage
containers, cosmetics or smoking materials, tobacco
products or chewing products are prohibited in regulated areas.
Except for outdoor systems, regulated areas must have
negative pressures in relation to non-regulated areas. Local
exhaust ventilation may be used for this purpose and an
equal volume of clean makeup air must replace air removed.
Movement of any equipment, material, etc., to or from a
regulated area must not cause contamination in non-regulated
areas or the external environment.
Establish and implement decontamination procedures to
remove the carcinogen from surfaces of materials, equipment
and the decontamination facility.
Dry sweeping and dry mopping are prohibited. (Note:
they are permitted for regulated areas that involve methyl
chloromethyl ether, bis-chloromethyl ether, Ethyleneimine
Remember all regulated work areas must be posted with
signs that read:
Cancer-Suspect Agent – Authorized Personnel Only. At
entrances to regulated areas where maintenance or decontamination
operations are being carried out, post signs that
are worded: Cancer-Suspect Agent; Exposed in this area
impervious suit including gloves, boots and air-supplied hood
– required at all times. Authorized Personnel Only.
Prior planning for a possible contamination from a car-cinogen
may just save a life, yours or one of your employees.
No one likes to think this could happen in their facility, but
it could, it does and will continue to do so, please take heed
and be prepared.
For more information, Click on the Author Biography at the top of this page.