Controlling toxic exposure on a production line

Factory workers in nearly every industry face exposure to toxic chemicals on almost every shift. From cleaning solvents to machine degreasers, workers risk damage to the skin, lungs or eyes that could lead to chronic disabilities or life-threatening conditions.

Supervisors have a duty to protect their workers from on-the-job injuries. Often, this means providing the proper safety equipment and ensuring all workers have access to current training materials. While heavy industries are inherently unsafe, there are certain steps that can be taken to avoid toxic exposure in a factory setting, including:

  • Using a closed system: A work environment that employs a closed system is designed to prevent workers from coming into contact with hazardous materials. From sealed shipping containers to airtight storage units, direct contact is kept to a minimum.
  • Using both local and general ventilation: A company can utilize local exhaust ventilation by ensuring that air handlers are installed in direct proximity to where the hazardous substances are stored. General ventilation means that the air in the entire factory is cleaned. While general ventilation should not be relied upon to remove great amounts of air contaminants, the local exhaust system should perform that task. Used in conjunction, toxic materials can be removed from the production facility’s air.
  • Using the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE): The use of general PPE will not guarantee a worker’s safety. Depending on the work being performed, different PPE might be required for different job tasks. Certain PPE might need to be professionally cleaned or retired altogether on a regular basis. It is wise to constantly re-examine the PPE being used to ensure workers are safe.

Workers can develop severe conditions from inhaling, ingesting or touching toxic chemicals. Injuries from mesothelioma to contact dermatitis can dramatically impact the worker’s health and the financial security of his or her entire family. It is crucial that workers in any industry take the steps necessary to remain safe.

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