There are some basic rules that apply whenever carcinogenic substances are used in the workplace. Rules everyone should take into account, regardless of the job position one find themselves in.
- Don’t drink, eat or smoke while you might be contaminated with carcinogenic substances as this increases your intake on carcinogens.
- Wash yourself
o Especially hands and face
o Shower after work
o Don’t take dirty or contaminated clothes home as it will contaminate your family
- Clean workplaces
o The less stuff which can harm you is around, the less you will be harmed
o Don’t blow off substances. This practice will result in higher concentrations and thus higher danger
Every employer dealing with carcinogenic substances should ask these questions in the following order:
- Can carcinogenic substances be replaced with non-carcinogenic? If not:
- Can the process be secured, so no one will be exposed? If not:
- Can the process be in an enclosed area which will cause less people to be exposed?
Note: ensure extra protection for youth and pregnant women.
Note: not everybody has to stay in the contaminated continuously
- Can the concentration of the carcinogenic substance be reduced?
Note: e.g. If the substance can be reduced through extraction, ensure sufficient ventilation possibilities and check whether the ventilation is up to the task.
- Is the right personal protection equipment provided to the employees? Note: Personal Protective Equipment is the last resort in the occupational hygiene strategy and should not function as the first measure, as it is the most failproof.
- Is everyone in the area informed about the dangerous substances which are present?
Note: cleaning personnel, contract workers, maintenance- and waste disposal personnel are often overlooked.
- Are employees encourages to ensure a clean workplace and high personal hygiene?
- Is information about the carcinogenic substances and prevention measures available to your employees?
- Is there information on how to clean contaminated clothes?
- Are cleaning schedules in place and do people have access to the right cleaning equipment?
- Are there facilities for washing up or taking a shower?
- Is there a non-contaminated area for breaks, and to eat and/or drink?
Which measures to take? STOP!
It’s easy to remember: STOP keeps you safe!
S … Substitution – replace dangerous substances with less dangerous ones. Substitution is always the first measure to consider.
T … Technical measures – from closed systems to effective air suction, many techniques help to reduce the exposure towards carcinogens dramatically. And, as techniques even work automatically and they keep everyone in your surroundings safe, they are a first step to reduce exposure towards carcinogens
O … Organisational measures – did you close that door and keep that lid shut? Is your workplace tidy and cleaned on a regular basis? Does everyone wash their hands and face before eating, drinking and smoking? These are organisational measures which help a lot to reduce the exposure towards carcinogenic substances.
P … Personal Protection – sometimes substitution is not possible and technical and organisational measures are not enough. Then you need to use personal protection. Personal protection helps to keeps carcinogens away from lungs and skin.