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#1 Posted : 10 September 2019 09:38:13(UTC)
Rank: New forum user

My company has a nursing mother that has returned to work, part of their role is to visit chemical warehouses and inspect twice a week for a maximum of 1hr each time, it is an essential part of their role as an inspector. The warehouses store toxics, carcinogens, flammables, corrosive chemicals, these are stored and containers are never opened.  

In terms of carrying out a risk assessment  HSE guidance highlights toxic chemicals as a potential risk to a new or expectant mother. The employee does not handle any chemical containers merely inspects and observes from a distance but they could be potentially exposed if a spill incident of toxic chemical was to occur.

I am looking for any guidance on how to approach this, if the person was handling open chemical containers i would advise that they avoid this task however this situation is slightly different. Ive been trying to find further guidance and studies on chemicals transferring to breastmilk but not digging up much.

Any experience of this type of situation or comments would be useful to help carry out the risk assessment.

#2 Posted : 10 September 2019 13:00:59(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

I'm in  no way an expert but start by checking NIOSH/ACGIH and their PELs/TLVs, WELs whatever they call them. EH40 is good also but doesn't seem to go into so much detail. 

Some chemicals release fumes, others are highly reactive or oxidising. Look at routes of entry, eyes, skin, inhalation, ingestion. 

Also, take into account quantities stored and have a look at the company's incident history (spills and accidental releseas) but take that with a pinch of salt. Some might not have been reported.

Once you're done with all the headache, have her train one of her colleagues to go in the warehouse and give her the info she needs for the duration of her nursing. Transfer the risk  Considering the fact that this is her area of expertise, I'm sure she'll be more than happy not to expose herself and her child to anything harmful. 

Sometimes the easiest and most practicable solution is to look for alternative means. 2 hours per week for someone else shouldn't be unreasonably practicable.

Good luck,

A Kurdziel  
#3 Posted : 10 September 2019 13:46:53(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

I have worked around chemical stores for years so I have some experience of them.

The store is described as warehouse which, I assume means that the chemicals are never opened in the store, which would mean that there should be no vapour present in the store. Are you confident of this? Is there a chemical smell in the store? Are there any white deposits on the bottles (these are caused by chemicals leaking out and then recrystallising on the outside of the bottle)?

Having assured ourselves that there are no “routine” exposures in the store you then (as has been mentioned) should look at the possibility of accidental spills. How likely is such as incident?  Are the people who move the chemicals about competent, look as if they know what they are doing? Or is the store the sort of place where anybody can turn up and take anything while leaving dropped bottles etc.?

What is the worse credible accident? Are the containers smallish (2.5 litre Winchesters) or large drums (100 litre barrels) or something in between?

How well ventilated in the store? Does it have an emergency extraction system for volatile spills? Is there a sump or some form of bunding for the spills to collect in? And if so how quickly, and effectively, will they be removed?

Are the chemicals very volatile, so that if there is a spill they evaporate quickly or are they more persistent, so that they hang around? Are they difficult to shift once spilled?

Basically I am telling you to do a risk assessment that looks at these issues.

If the store is one where there is no realistic risk of routine exposure to chemicals and there is only a low risk of spill and if a spill was to take place, it will very quickly be dealt with, then the risk to the lady (and her baby) in question is low.

If it’s not, then you have to look tightening up the procedures in there (if practicable) which will of course benefit EVERYBODY who works there.

I don’t like the idea of PPE (getting it, fitting it, making sure that it works etc) but you might look at that.  

#4 Posted : 10 September 2019 18:41:06(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

In Europe ECHA promotes the use of GESTIS international limit database https://limitvalue.ifa.dguv.de/

This is because an EU SDS must be prepared for each member state so it would be incorrect to cite UK EH40 limits for substances in Section 8 of an SDS for another market.

It is very useful as it helps identify those substances where an (EU) "Community" workplace exposure limit exists.

This database includes international values such as NIOSH and ACGIH (saving on purchasing these documents) but these have no legal validity within the EU/UK market where community and national legislation exists.

#5 Posted : 11 September 2019 07:49:47(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

I think you need to remember here that this is technically the storage of finished product...sealed and not being used by the employee on the task described...the only time this person will be exposed would be in a spill or other emergency involving the products whilst they are present...so concentrate on emergency procedures as from what you described...unless you have hundreds of open containers they don't need anything other than knowing the emergency procedures...and calculated escape time...which is from, rather rusty memory, is 2-3s per meter...there isn't any exposure here ...there is the potential but no actual exposure related to the task...

There is always a link to what the mother eats, drinks or exhales and how that affects a breats feeding baby..I recently was called to a very poorly child only to find the mother had eaten a very potent curry and was breast feeding...except for the escape scenario...so it may be prudent to give the person an appropriate escape set..

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