Solvent Exposure Claim *
What is Solvent Exposure?
Solvents are groups of liquid chemicals that share certain similarities with each other. They are also known as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Solvents that can potentially be harmful include acetone, white spirit and ethyl acetate. They are usually only used in working environments and are used in a large number of industries, including, construction, engineering and printing. If those who work around solvents do not manage them properly then they can become seriously ill which can lead to long term health issues. When exposed to solvents in large amounts they can impact on our bodies and central nervous systems.
Occupational solvent exposure is most common, therefore, there is a responsibility on the employer to ensure that they try to minimize the amount of solvents their employees are exposed to. Employers are required to carrying out frequent risk assessments in order to identify any hazards so that they can be eliminated as soon as possible. It is important that anybody who is working around any kind of harmful substance is correctly trained and has the right personal protective equipment.
Types of Solvents:
Solvents are used to dissolve or dilute other substances and are used in many different industries from engineering to printing to dry cleaning. Specific common solvents used in the workplace are:
- Adhesives (glues)
- Paint Remover
- Cleaning products and toiletries
Solvent Exposure Symptoms and Long-Term Problems
- Headaches and Dizziness
- Irritation of skin and eyes
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Kidney and liver function problems
- Brain Damage
- Damage to central nervous system
- Birth Defects
- Inadequate training and protective equipment
- Faulty equipment and machinery
- Contact with skin
- Breathing in dust and fumes
- Swallowing liquid solvents
Effects of solvent exposure
Effects experienced will depend on the specific solvent an employee is exposed to, level of exposure and how they come into contact with the solvents. Some of the common effects include:
- Inhaled solvents can irritate the eyes, causes drowsiness and fatigue, difficulty breathing and if prolonged neurological damage
- Direct contact with the eyes can lead to burning and problems with eye sight
- Direct contact with the skin may cause irritation, rashes, chemical burns and skin dryness.
- Ingested solvents may cause serious illness such as cancer.
Preventing harmful solvent exposure in the workplace
In a work environment where solvents are used the employer is responsible for ensuring that these substances do not harm the employees and must do so in the following ways:
- Personal Protective Equipment – each employer is responsible for providing personal protective equipment to any employees who are working with solvents to reduce their risk of exposure. The employee is also responsible for ensuring their use the safety equipment as it is intended. In cases where an employer does not supply adequate safety equipment and a person is injured from solvent exposure where is could have been avoided, they may be held liable for the injuries.
- Safety Measures – all solvents should be clearly labelled and safely stored with appropriate warning signs clearly visible
- Training of employees – all employees should be given appropriate training when the first start working and ongoing training should be provided to ensure their safety.
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