Evaluation of the COSHH Essentials Model with a Mixture of Organic Chemicals at a Medium-Sized Paint Producer
Published Date:Nov 03 2010
Source:Ann Occup Hyg. 2011; 55(1):16-29.
Keywords:Air Pollutants, Occupational
Occupational Exposure Limits
Risk Assessment Tool
Description:The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Essentials model was evaluated using full-shift exposure measurements of five chemical components in a mixture [acetone, ethylbenzene, methyl ethyl ketone, toluene, and xylenes] at a medium-sized plant producing paint materials. Two tasks, batch-making and bucket-washing, were examined. Varying levels of control were already established in both tasks and the average exposures of individual chemicals were considerably lower than the regulatory and advisory 8-h standards. The average exposure fractions using the additive mixture formula were also less than unity (batch-making: 0.25, bucket-washing: 0.56) indicating the mixture of chemicals did not exceed the combined occupational exposure limit (OEL). The paper version of the COSHH Essentials model was used to calculate a predicted exposure range (PER) for each chemical according to different levels of control. The estimated PERs of the tested chemicals for both tasks did not show consistent agreement with exposure measurements when the comparison was made for each control method and this is believed to be because of the considerably different volatilities of the chemicals. Given the combination of health hazard and exposure potential components, the COSHH Essentials model recommended a control approach 'special advice' for both tasks, based on the potential reproductive hazard ascribed to toluene. This would not have been the same conclusion if some other chemical had been substituted (for example styrene, which has the same threshold limit value as toluene). Nevertheless, it was special advice, which had led to the combination of hygienic procedures in place at this plant. The probability of the combined exposure fractions exceeding unity was 0.0002 for the batch-making task indicating that the employees performing this task were most likely well protected below the OELs. Although the employees involved in the bucket-washing task had greater potential to exceed the threshold limit value of the mixture (P > 1 = 0.2375), the expected personal exposure after adjusting for the assigned protection factor for the respirators in use would be considerably lower (P > 1 = 0.0161). Thus, our findings suggested that the COSHH essentials model worked reasonably well for the volatile organic chemicals at the plant. However, it was difficult to override the reproductive hazard even though it was meant to be possible in principle. Further, it became apparent that an input of existing controls, which is not possible in the web-based model, may have allowed the model be more widely applicable. The experience of using the web-based COSHH Essentials model generated some suggestions to provide a more user-friendly tool to the model users who do not have expertise in occupational hygiene.
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