Definition according to The Occupational Health and Safety Act no. 85 of 1993: “Biological Monitoring means a planned programme of periodic collection and analysis of body fluid, tissues, etc. or exhaled air in order to detect and quantify the exposure to or absorption of any substance or organism by persons.”
So, in other words… A company is legally obliged to determine what chemicals an employee is exposed to in their normal work, to measure what these levels in the work area are and if they are more than 50% of the legal limit, then they need to draft a planned programme and do tests on the person to determine the individual’s levels of these chemicals. Then: If the chemical level in the individual is high, then the company is responsible to determine the effect that this chemical has on the individual’s body (biological effects monitoring).
Quite simple actually!!
HSP Group SA has, through years of experience, assisted in assessing our clients’ specific needs for Biological Monitoring and drafting legally compliant programmes which we carry out with the assistance of professional laboratory services and only align ourselves with the most professional service providers in South Africa.
Testing includes, but most certainly is not limited to (refer to table 3 of the Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations)
Reducing exposure to chemicals in the workplace usually relies on following processes; physical and engineering controls such as spray booths and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including respiratory, eye and skin protection.
In the “real world” these controls are not always followed correctly, for example exposure could occur by:
- Briefly lifting visors to take a closer look at the job (employee negligence);
- Entering a spray booth soon after spraying without allowing for enough ‘clearance time’;
- Equipment cleaning routine can be rushed;
- Respiratory protective equipment sometimes does not fit properly especially when there is excessive movement required or spraying above head height.
- Entry of unprotected workers into spray areas to “have a quick word” to protected colleagues during spraying.
- Poor equipment maintenance;
- And other similar reasons.
Using Biological Monitoring can demonstrate whether the control measures in place are working and the processes in place are being followed correctly, and intervals are then reduced when low levels are routinely found in employees.
Why screen for chemical exposure?
This is the only practical way of measuring an employee’s individual exposure to chemicals, paint or other source, i.e. by the analysis of metabolites or the measurement of actual chemical levels in a urine sample.
Biological Monitoring screening is relatively easy to administer. HSP Group SA will send you all the sampling kits and paperwork (instructions, employee information & consent forms) required and will either be present on the day or you simply need to collect a sample (urine) immediately post-shift or “post-exposure”. We will handle the collection of samples, etc.
The laboratory sends us the results which we interpret and issue a thorough report on and explain to Management. Results are filed and stored along with any other health surveillance records for those employees. Abnormal results would usually result in Biological Effects Monitoring in order to identify any target organ damage as well as physical examination etc. specific to the effect the chemical has on the body.
The results are a measure of how much chemical entered the person’s body rather than how much was in the environment. It gives no indication of any health effects but simply how much exposure there has been to the individual.
If controls and process are working correctly it is expected that the results will clear with “none detected”. Any positive results would indicate that URGENT Management action is required.
Ideally the monitoring should be completed annually. Any positive results should be addressed and further testing carried out until the results reflect that no exposure is occurring. In cases with high results, testing is likely to be recommended at a closer interval.
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