Which safe practices to be followed when handling Hazardous Substances?

asked 21 Oct, 15:10

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Many substances found on ships are capable of damaging the health of those exposed to them. They include not only substances displaying hazard warning labels (e.g. on dangerous goods cargoes and ships' stores) but also, for example, a range of dusts, fumes and fungal spores from goods, plant or activities aboard ship.

Whenever crew members work in the presence of substances hazardous to health the employer or the Master should ensure that any risks from exposure are assessed and appropriate measures taken to prevent or control them. The assessment should include consideration of any necessary precautionary measures both for crew members and other affected groups (e.g. stevedores and maintenance personnel). Failure to protect workers exposed to hazardous substances in this way could result in prosecution.

Officers should instruct, inform and train crews so that they know and understand the risks arising from their work, the precautions to be taken and the results of any monitoring of exposure.

The health risk from a substance hazardous to health should be assessed by a competent person who should look at each hazard from each of the following viewpoints: the identity, concentration, form and possible harmful effects of the hazardous substance, including any harmful products; the likely exposure for the work in hand; and the number of people (crew members and others) who will be in contact (they should be identified). The risks to crew members and other persons should be considered separately for each area of the ship and each risk should be assessed individually. Where appropriate the risks to different categories of person should be considered separately.

A risk will normally conform to one or other of the following categories:

(a) insignificant - no further action needed unless conditions change;
(b) significant - immediate and long-term control measures needed;
(c) at present under control - precautions needed to maintain control or to regain it if risk should later increase; or
(d) uncertain or unknown - degree of exposure or risk from exposure needs to be established, if necessary with the help of outside experts; meanwhile caution is required.

As an aid to the assessment of the risks from dangerous goods reference may be made to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code or to the Chemical data sheets contained in the Tanker Safety Guides (Gas and Chemical) issued by the International Chamber of Shipping. Information concerning hazardous cargoes carried in bulk should be available where applicable to allow the assessment to be made. In the case of ship's stores etc, reference may also be made where appropriate to the series of publications issued by the Health and Safety Executive under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Reg: SI 1988 No.1657 ('COSHH' Regs).

The hazardous chemicals are to be stored in their own individual storeroom, well ventilated and locked. A strict control and log of the supply, usage and stock to be maintained concerning the hazardous chemicals.

The assessment should be reviewed regularly and revised if there is a significant change of circumstances. A record should normally be kept of the assessment and of any measures taken. It is recommended that such records should be stored together on board to form a single database.

Prevention of the hazard by not having the substance is always better than control; but failing this the control measures should achieve adequate control, be used and be maintained in efficient order. When adequate control is not feasible by any other means, then as a means of last resort personal protective clothing and equipment should be provided and used instead.

For certain substances (e.g. where the risk to health is through inhalation) very specific control measures apply: for example; where the substance is asbestos dust, a dangerous gas or is in an enclosed or confined space. Where the risk is of a lower order, effective controls will often be the simplest, however, e.g. awareness of the problem and an organized working method to reduce exposure.

In cases where failure of the control measures could result in serious risks to health, or where their adequacy or efficiency is in doubt, the exposure of crew members should be monitored and a record kept for future reference.
Barrier creams may help to protect exposed skin against dermatitis and also make thorough cleaning easier.

Barrier creams and hand cleaners, to be available in dispensers in the change rooms. The hand cleaners must be of a type, which does not remove the natural oils from the skin.

Prolonged exposure to mineral oils may cause dermatitis and skin cancer. All traces of oil should be thoroughly washed from the skin but hydrocarbon solvents should be avoided. Working clothes should be laundered frequently. Oil-soaked rags should not be put in pockets.

Anthrax is a dangerous disease. It can be contracted by handling the hides, wool, bristles, bones, horns, hooves or other products from infected animals and from any wrapping materials which have contained them.

Overalls, head covering and protective gloves should be worn to protect the skin as far as possible.

Inadvertent exposure to or contact with toxic chemicals or other harmful substances should be reported immediately and the appropriate remedial action taken.

Prolonged exposure to synthetic domestic cleaners and detergents is a potential cause of alkali (de-fatting) dermatitis. Cotton-lined rubber or PVC gloves should be worn when using such substances.

Some domestic substances, for example caustic soda and bleaching powers or liquids, can burn the skin. They may react dangerously with other substances and ought not to be mixed indiscriminately.

Coughs and lung damage can be caused by breathing irritant dust. This may be produced by many different substances. Dust containing asbestos fibres is particularly hazardous since this can cause lung cancer and other serious lung diseases when inhaled. The risk is usually much greater for a person who smokes than for a non-smoker.

Some fumigating or insecticidal sprays contain ingredients which though perhaps in themselves are harmless to human beings, may be decomposed when heated. Smoking may be dangerous in sprayed atmospheres while the spray persists.

Asbestos Dust Precautions

All types of asbestos have a fibrous structure and can produce harmful dust if the surface exposed to the air is damaged or disturbed. The danger is not immediately obvious because the fibres which damage the lungs and can cause lung cancer are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Asbestos which is in good condition is unlikely to release fibres, but where the material is damaged or deteriorating, or work is undertaken on it, airborne fibres can be released. Dry asbestos is much more likely to produce dust than asbestos that is thoroughly west or oil-soaked. Asbestos is particularly likely to occur on older vessels in old insulation and panelling, but certain asbestos compounds may also be found on other vessels in machinery components such as gaskets and brake linings.

Shipowners should advise Masters of any location where asbestos is known or believed to be present on their ship. Masters and/or safety officers should keep a written record of this information and should also note any other position where asbestos is suspected, but they should not probe or disturb any suspect substance. Crew members who work regularly near asbestos or a substance likely to contain it should be warned of the need for caution and should report any deterioration in its condition such as cracking or flaking.

The condition of old asbestos may deteriorate and where reasonably practicable consideration should be given to its removal. This should be carried out in port and to ensure the use of adequate protective procedures a specialist asbestos removal contractor should be used.

If it is essential to carry out emergency repairs liable to create asbestos dust while the ship is at sea strict precautions, including the use of the appropriate protective clothing and respiratory protective equipment, should be observed in accordance with the guidance given in the relevant Merchant Shipping Notice.

Guidance on precautions to be taken when asbestos is carried as a cargo is also included in a Merchant Shipping Notice.

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answered 21 Oct, 15:17

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