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#1 Posted : 04 September 2019 14:14:01(UTC)
Rank: New forum user

Looking for some advice please. Pregnant Employee whom has one duty of cleaning engineered manufactured work using white spirit (WS) so occupational exposure by job role.

Employee does have other duties that could be done, and thus expouse could be avoided. Yet employer inisists that both a) it's her job and b) she's protected with a mask.

In terms of does WS affect pregnancy or the unborn child - TOXBASE's shares that due to lack of data it is not possible to assess the reproductive and developmental effects of WS. Toxbases say that it is unlikely that exposure to low concentrations of white spirit which do not affect the mother would result in harm to the unborn child

UKTIS share that....

There are limited data describing pregnancy outcomes
following exposure to solvents in general; data relating to specific
classes of solvent are also scarce. Studies have raised concerns about
the possible reproductive effects of organic solvent exposure, largely
as a consequence of occupational exposure. Adverse pregnancy outcomes
reported include miscarriage, congenital malformation, low infant birth
weight and altered childhood neurodevelopment, however data are
conflicting. Additionally, data are often confounded by factors
including multiple exposures and sociodemographic factors, and limited
through exposures being assumed through job title or place of residence.
It is therefore difficult to draw conclusions regarding the safety
profile of organic solvents in general or any specific organic solvent.
Pregnant women should be advised to avoid exposure to organic solvents.
Where exposure cannot be avoided, personal protective equipment (PPE)
should be employed as per the manufacturer’s instructions and exposure should ideally be well below occupational exposure limits.

Click Here To Read More

The important recommendation being that expourse is not certian and as a result 'Pregnant women should be advised to avoid exposure to organic solvents.'

In our opinon it is impossible to guarantee that any human would not have some sort of reaction to a chemical, due to each human reacting to chemicals in different ways, the only way to be absolutely safe is for them not to use chemical related products during pregnancy. Considering the employee in question has the possibility to perform an alternative duties in her job then it should be avoided, regardless of appropriate PPE in section 8.2 of the SDS to be worn as a minimum.

Does telling the employee to do the role of cleaning with a mask because they need her (i.e. don't have suitable cover) show that her health and wellbeing is not top priority?

Unsure how to handle this situation and how to respond to employer in relation that 'Pregnant Employe' in question has been told they need to do the role.

Any advice and guideance is much apperciated.

#2 Posted : 04 September 2019 14:43:08(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

Looking forward to Chris Packhams thoughts on this one - you have to presume they are also wearing gloves not just a mask

Dependent upon which "white spirit" ECHA has quite a number listed as carcinogens and mutagens which all employees and particulalry those planning for or with child should be separated from - the employer really needs to be brought up to date on their legal obligations



thanks 2 users thanked Roundtuit for this useful post.
Malc58 on 05/09/2019(UTC), SJP on 06/09/2019(UTC)
#3 Posted : 04 September 2019 14:47:38(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

I am somewhat concerned that you only refer to a mask. Unless you can be certain that none will occur you need also to consider potential skin exposure. If she is using white spirit for cleaning this would seem to indicate potential exposure, not least of the hands. However, airborne skin exposure to white spirit could also be a concern.

White spirit is a mixture of solvents and can easily be taken up by the skin. Not only could this result in systemic effects but also irritant damage to the skin. Such damage, whilst still at the asymptomatic stage (ie. not visible) can result in the skin becoming more easily colonised by transient - potentially pathogenic - bacteria. The average nitrile glove, which I commonly find being provided, will only provide limited protection. Youn need to ensure that the permeation breakthrough time achieve in practice (not necessarily the same as in the manufacturer's catalogue) is not exceeded.

You will also need to consider health surveillance - see the current ACoP for COSHH on this - and the possibility of body uptake by all three routes of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, dermal) can best be detected by biological monitoring. 

If you need more feel free to PM me.


thanks 2 users thanked chris.packham for this useful post.
mihai_qa on 05/09/2019(UTC), Malc58 on 05/09/2019(UTC)
#4 Posted : 04 September 2019 16:28:53(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

agree with Chris...

Also there are studies confirmed on TOXNET that link occupational expsoure to Spirit and CHD - Congenital Heart Defects in new borns...all points towards get the person out of there...

thanks 2 users thanked stevedm for this useful post.
Malc58 on 05/09/2019(UTC), SJP on 06/09/2019(UTC)
#5 Posted : 05 September 2019 09:02:20(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

Something else that might be worth keeping in mind...

'Air threshold limits are insufficient to prevent adverse health effects in the case of contact with substances with a high dermal absorption potential.' - Drexler H, Skin protection and percutaneous absorption of chemical hazards, Int.Arch.Occ.Environ.Health (2003) 76:359-361

This was in the context of airborne exposure.


thanks 2 users thanked chris.packham for this useful post.
stevedm on 05/09/2019(UTC), Malc58 on 05/09/2019(UTC)
#6 Posted : 05 September 2019 13:08:12(UTC)
Rank: New forum user

Amazing informative information and support. Thank you.

Esp those links that's very helpful.

The WS brand being used is Ever Build which conforms to BS245, but i dont know what type it would be for ECHA..

I confirm she wears blue rubber gloves which i assume are nitrile gloves. However, no eyewear to protect eyes or face and no suitable mask was being used, which is clear on data sheets as protective equipment to comply with EU Standard EN166.

Providing a mask was just a strategy to cover the situation, not actually by standard. Employee discloses she’s pregnant and Employer thinks ‘we will just get you a mask and you will be fine’ sort of deal.

Nevertheless, to add to this, as a result of putting up some
resistance to avoid WS, the employer also presented to find a substitute product for cleaning instead and purchased “Clean Spirit" as a more water-based alternative to somewhat find balance in the situation.

I contacted bartoline personally and they said...

Clean Spirit, as a final product, has not been tested for exposure limits in relation to pregnancy. Therefore the only information we have relates to the individual substances which make up the formulation. Based on the available data we conclude that our Clean Spirit does not contain any substances known to have significant effects on fertility or the developing foetus. However, it is impossible to guarantee and the only way to be safe is for them not to use chemical related products during pregnancy. Should the employee in question not have the possibility to perform an alternative job then we would advise that the appropriate PPE in section 8.2 of the SDS be worn as a minimum.

Diproplylene glycol
Monomethyl ether
Alcohol C9-11 ethoxylated
2-Propylheptanol ethoxylate
Non-hazardous ethoxylate surfactant
Trisodium nitrilotriacetate Sodium hydroxide

Theuse of a less harsh product appears positive. Although not arrived and not confirmed if it does the job .

The case in point IMO still stands that even considering to use another product is the wrong action. And also the idea of just providing a suitable mask would make everything okay is wrong. It is impossible to guarantee and the best action as by HSE should be if the risk cannot be removed then temporarily adjust her working conditions or remove from the exposure altogether.

It's on the thinking that if they removed the employee from the cleaning duty -> the exposure, then they would not have any suitable cover for that duty, and thus just providing very poor substitutes with no priority of employees health.

Thanks again for your input.

#7 Posted : 05 September 2019 17:06:29(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

At least one of the components you have listed is a Category 2 Carcinogen, and if the intention is to remove oils an/or greases the reviews indicate forget it as the water carrier does not mix.


#8 Posted : 06 September 2019 07:18:41(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

If you decide to rely on gloves as protection against this mixture be sure to insist that they meet EN347-1/type A standard. I would also recommend you obtain the manufacturer's permeation breakthrough time for the constituents of the chemical. If they cannot give you this how will you know for how long the gloves will protect the wearer?

#9 Posted : 06 September 2019 07:34:03(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

I think it's a total no-brainer and she should absolutely be put on different duties immediately.  If you are having problems with your employer you could point out that any birth defects may very well be traced back to her employment and then the employer would be responsible for proving that they did take all necessary precautions which, of course, they didn't.

Draw up a risk assessment with the COSHH data sheets, exposure levels and evidence that you have been given and present a package of information to the employer with the consequences of taking no action.  Make it your recommendation that this employee is removed from this task immediately.  It may not protect the employee if the employer is adamant and doesn't take your advice, but it will cover you.

Edited by user 06 September 2019 07:34:35(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

#10 Posted : 06 September 2019 07:56:56(UTC)
Rank: New forum user

Thanks all.

Could I just confirm with brief understnading to the letter of the law. 

By taking no action and necessary precautions, are we refereing to the employer not providng suitable alternative work or removing her from that duty?

In other words, to ensure I am on the same page, these harzards are identified in carcinogenicity, category 1A, 1B or 2 (H350, H350i, H351).

Does providing PPE (mask, gloves, mask) cover the employer as taking necessary preventive and
protective measures to reduce or control the risk? or is it putting her on different duties immediately the necessary preventive and protective action? (which we agree on).

In reply to Roundtuit; which part of the legislation shows those planning for or with child should be separated from exposure to substances that are CMR's?

Thanks again.

#11 Posted : 06 September 2019 09:01:57(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 16 - New & Expectant mothers which then refers to the annexes of  European Directive 92/85/EEC

HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/index.htm

HSE guidance for the employee http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg373.pdf

#12 Posted : 06 September 2019 09:11:41(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

It appears that the dangerous ingredients are less than 1% of the overall product..?

#13 Posted : 09 September 2019 16:55:56(UTC)
Rank: New forum user

Thank you again.

Writting up package to present.

New substance didn't work and topic remains white spirit. Employer is still adamant and even requesting employee to provide reasoning because they don't understand why they can't use the white spirit with a mask.
Recommendation remains to remove employee from this task immediately.

thanks 1 user thanked Malc58 for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 10/09/2019(UTC)
A Kurdziel  
#14 Posted : 10 September 2019 09:23:46(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

I think that the precautionary approach is the correct one, taking into account the employer’s attitude- they don’t get it.

Ideally they should be looking to substitute the “white spirit” with something less harmful or redesigning the process to reduce the exposure for EVERYBODY.  This is a problem often encountered when trying to explain obligations under COSHH. There is an assumption that stuff that you can buy is essentially harmless-it’s just a white liquid.  And if there is evidence that is harmful they just adopt the minimum precautions ie the most basic PPE.

#15 Posted : 11 September 2019 17:52:41(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

Originally Posted by: Malc58 Go to Quoted Post
The WS brand being used is Ever Build ......

Is this the version of SDS you have from the supplier?



Edited by user 11 September 2019 17:54:50(UTC)  | Reason: Typo

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