Monitoring and control of hazardous chemical substances in research and testing laboratories in the Faculty of Health Sciences of the North-West University
This study was launched because of alarming conditions in laboratories and lack of general occupational health and safety. Employees are exposed to a number of chemicals for extended periods of time, and these employees aren't completely informed of the risks involved in working with the hazardous substances. There is a general lack of awareness and concern about employee health and safety in the workplace, especially in laboratories. In this study personal and environmental sampling was conducted in three subject groups with the highest potential risk. With the sampling employee or environmental exposure to ten chemicals could be quantified. Questionnaires were used to assess employee as well as health and safety representative's general knowledge of occupational health and safety. In the course of this study it was found that employees are exposed to low concentrations of a wide variety of chemicals during the workday. The exposure to a combination of chemicals leads to an exceedingly high concentration of overall volatile organic substances. The exposure to these low concentrations takes place over a number of years for permanent employees. During the workday employees are also exposed to short periods of very high concentrations of hazardous chemical substances. These short term exposure levels are complicated to compare with international standards because of the lack of standards available. 'Therefore it is difficult to determine if an employee's exposure does exceed the international limits, and therefore it is difficult to control or prevent this short term exposure. The long term exposure to these hazardous chemical substances may lead to serious detrimental health effects, which often only develop years after exposure occurred. The biggest concern for employees working with hazardous chemical substances is depression of the nervous system and development of cancer. To prevent these negative health effects it is important to control or minimize employee exposure to hazardous chemical substances during the workday. The institution should launch a thorough investigation to determine employee exposure of the various chemicals during the eight hour workday, but also during the short term exposure periods. Control measiures such as ventilation systems or fume cupboards should be installed or repaired to provide adequate control to minimize employee exposure.
- ETD@PUK