“Occupational Hygiene Risk Management” (OHRM) – AkzoNobel
Setting and problem
In the ideal world, hazardous or dangerous substances should not be used at work. However, it is the combination of hazard and exposure that determines the final risk. AkzoNobel is therefore evaluating the hazards and potential exposure of all chemicals used at the workplace.
In 2011 AkzoNobel developed a tool named “Occupational Hygiene Risk Management” (OHRM). The tool helps their sites performing risk assessments based on two steps. First, the hazard of the substance is rated on a scale from 1 (non-hazardous) to 5 (very hazardous), taking the limit-value for long-term exposure as basis. This can be a (national) Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) or a Derived No Effect Level (DNEL), or an Internal Occupational Exposure (IEL) is set based on available data. When there is no available data to set a limit-value for a substance, the middle hazard class (class 3) is used. For all substances evaluated, toxicologists from AkzoNobel have checked or derived the limit-values for the substances.
Secondly, the exposure level is estimated using 6 determinants (e.g. nature of the substance such as high or low dustiness or volatility, the degree of contact with the substance, and concentration and duration of exposure). Each determinant gets a score between 0 and 3, with a combined maximum of 18. If interventions are already in place, for example a good ventilation system, points may be subtracted. Based on the two scores, the table in the tool will then rank the risk. For example, when a substance is rated in hazard class 4, and the potential degree of exposure is scored high, you get code ‘Red’: immediate action required. Hazard class 1 and potential limited exposure, gets code ‘Green’. Code Green does not indicate it is 100% safe, but it means it has the lowest priority. The code in between is Orange, and has lower priority than code Red. Note that a substance in hazard class 4 but limited exposure (category 1) could also result in code Green. Hazard class 5 always has priority and will ask for special conditions such as containment. Subsequently the outcome for each combination of substance and use/activity determines which strategy should be used to reduce the risks; the Occupational Hygiene Control Strategy 1 (OHCS – 1) prescribes a.o. good ventilation, whereas OHCS – 3 prescribes closed systems and for example wearing proper respiratory protection while changing filters.
AkzoNobel observed that awareness among employees has risen, and employees are able to do their own exposure and risk analysis. Furthermore, the tool also helps in evaluating short-lasting activities that are generally not well included in exposure modelling tools such as Stoffenmanager.
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