Respiratory personal equipment is an essential tool in automobile industries as they protect workers against inhalation hazards such as isocyanates. Employees are required to wear respiratory equipment that is in good condition to avoid inhalation of harmful substances caused by spraying polyurethane paint that may expose them to greater risks of developing respiratory complications such as asthma and also skin conditions. In the development of the research, it’s evident that supervisors play a very important role in ensuring workers’ safety by offering training and knowledge on the use, storage, and exposure of respiratory equipment.
Aims and Objectives
The primary objective of using respiratory personal equipment is to control diseases caused by harmful isocyanates exposure. This project aims to reduce cases of isocyanates exposure due to dis-functioning equipment and ensure employees are well trained on the use of the equipment. This is because currently, the number of respiratory diseases has been on the rise regardless of the use of respiratory equipment. Therefore regular inspection and training are likely to improve employees’ working conditions and health surveillance that will detect more respiratory diseases. The proposal is targeted to ensure that workplaces have provided effective and sustainable control measures towards isocyanates exposure to all employees.
Supervisors should take charge of maintaining respiratory personal equipment by establishing an inspection schedule in the organization that will make sure that respirators are kept clean and are in operable condition. Supervisors should maintain a constant supply of appropriate cleaning and disinfecting substances to condition respiratory equipment and also establish a cleaning and disinfecting protocol within various departments. Respiratory equipment should be subjected to annual fit testing and the supervisor should make sure that they adhere to this schedule. He should make sure that employees are well trained to perform a facepiece seal check whenever they wear the respirator. Respirators should be properly stored between uses to avoid contamination with isocyanates (ORS Laboratory Safety 2007, online).
The organization management should continually review changes in working conditions that may affect the ability of employees to wear respiratory effectively. For example, environmental factors such as heat and humidity and tremendous changes in work effort may compromise effective use of the equipment. The management should also consider changes in employees’ physical ability that may affect wearing respiratory equipment such as body weight changes, growth of facial hair, dental work, use of new eyeglasses and incorporate them in designing new respirators. The health care professional should evaluate any reports of medical signs related to respiratory equipment use. The work area should always be manned and when the work is finished, employees are advised to leave the area immediately.
Respirators’ equipment is required to undergo regular inspection to detect breakthroughs, leakage, or changes in resistance. Supervisors should be in charge of ensuring respiratory supplies are enough, they fit medical evaluation and testing and employees undergo training. Defective parts should be replaced immediately before employees use them. Routine cleaning should be mandatory and respiratory tools disinfected regularly under the supervision of the department supervisor (ORS Laboratory Safety 2007, online).
A physician or a licensed medical professional should examine employees’ health status on regular basis to check whether they are eligible to wear respiratory equipment without health effects. All employees should be medically evaluated before fit testing is administered and before wearing the respiratory equipment. For adequate use of respiratory equipment, the supervisor should consider the duration and frequency of respirator used by the employee for frequent replacement, expected physical work in the automobile industry and temperature and humidity should also be considered. Workers should be well trained to carry out their duties safely and react appropriately in emergencies cases, respirator leakage for instance. Workers should be given information on the hazards of isocyanates and instructions on how to use respiratory equipment (Government of Western Australia 2000, p.11).
Protective clothing should be regularly cleaned and replaced as they become heavily contaminated with isocyanates. Decontamination should also be done before the clothing is disposed to reduce further exposure of the substances to outsiders. Employees should also be advised to remove the respiratory equipment before eating or smoking and thereafter wash their hands to minimize exposure. No employee should use the equipment used by another employee before cleaning, disinfecting, and servicing (British Coating Federation Ltd 2001, p.6).
Supervisors should make sure that the right amount of compressed air is supplied to respiratory equipment that is fit to breathe. Respiratory equipment should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s manual to ensure safety. Filters should be kept clean and changed as soon as faulty is detected. Airline oil and water traps should be emptied as soon as they are out of use. Employees should play their part by reporting any signs of leakages, damage, or wear and also use, maintain and store respiratory personal equipment according to instructions (HSE 2003, p.2: Automotive Industries Association of Canada 2005, p.8). Alberta (2006, p.8) recommends that companies should provide effective respiratory protection equipment that will safeguard their employees against isocyanates exposure.
He discourages employees to use cartridges in respirator equipment since employees may fail to tell when the cartridge needs refilling and therefore expose them to health risks. For this case, supervisors should ensure that respirator equipment purchased include end-of-use indicators that will alert employees when the cartridge needs refilling. In a case where the expiry date is not indicated, a qualified person should calculate change schedule dates using the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (Department of Labor and Industries 2003, p.3). Routinely questionnaires should be administered to check for allergic symptoms caused by isocyanates exposure for early medication and employees should undergo testing after 6 months as surveillance programs rely entirely on their reports (Medscape 2009, online).
Methodology (research design)
Three different automobile industries of different sizes that use isocyanates were examined to determine the extent to which its workers are exposed to the substances and the possibility of a breakthrough of respiratory personal equipment. Information was extracted from employees by filling questionnaires to review their risk control indicators for MRV controls of isocyanates exposure of their respiratory personal equipment.
The questionnaire required employees to determine whether there was an effective organizational arrangement in place to adequately assess respiratory personal equipment, provide instructions, supervision, and training on the use of the equipment. From the questionnaire results, it was evident that employees had poor knowledge of health effects associated with isocyanates exposure as adequate control measures, training and briefing were not in place.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Respiratory equipment should be regularly checked by the supervisor and records of the events kept ensuring follow-up on replacements and disposal of damaged equipment. A thorough examination and testing of the equipment is required by a health professional on regular basis. Employers should ensure that adequate control measures are carried out by reference to control standards. In case of health risks such as asthma, competent health surveillance should be taken. Different departments should ensure that respiratory equipment is kept in working orders and reviewed periodically.
Employees should be given proper instructions and training that will enable them adequately use respiratory equipment to minimize exposure to isocyanates. The management on the other hand should commit to effectively controlling and arranging for equipment reviews and inspections to minimize asthma infections (Health and Safety Executive 2007, p.13) (Wiley 2000).
Alberta 2006, ‘Workplace Health and Safety Bulletin’, Work Safe Alberta, Ch005, p. 1-12.
Automotive Industries Association of Canada 2005, ‘ The Top Ten Steps to a safer more profitable shop, p. 1-20.
British Coating Federation Ltd 2001, ‘Safe Use of Isocyanates’, Marine Coating Series, No. 2, p. 1-13.
Department of Labor and Industries 2003, ‘Spray-on urethane truck bed linings and isocyanate exposures. Hazards Alert, p.1-4.
Government of Western Australia 2000, ‘Controlling Isocyanates Hazards at Work’, WorkSafe Western Australia Commissions, p. 1-24.
Health and Safety Executive 2007, ‘Control of isocyanates exposure in motor vehicle repair (MRV) bodyshops Disease Reduction Programme. Inspection Topic Pack, Vol. 7, p.1-52.
HSE 2003, ‘Isocyanate-spraying two-pack products in a spray/bake booth’, Motor Vehicle repair control guidance sheet MR 02, p. 1-4.
Mediscape 2009, ‘Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol’, Medscape Today. Web.
ORS Laboratory Safety 2007, ‘Respiratory Protection Program: Requirements for Air-Purifying Respirators’, Northwestern University. Web.
Wiley 2000,’ Qualitative assessment of isocyates skin exposure in auto body shops: A pilot study, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 37, issue 3, pp. 365-274.