Please see below answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Occupational Hygiene / Industrial Hygiene Services.
NOISE – Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I need to conduct a noise assessment?
If you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation at 2m apart for prolonged periods, then you may need to conduct a formal assessment of noise. Workplaces that have heavy machinery or workers who use power tools are also likely to be exposed to significant noise.
Why can’t personal hearing protection be used to control noise exposure such as ear plugs and muffs?
Independent research conducted in the workplace shows that personal hearing protection is generally a lot less effective than the attenuation (reduction) estimated by the manufacturers. Also some PHP, such as user-formable ear plugs, require specific fitting techniques which if not adhered to will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer.
Does controlling noise by technical measures mean buying new equipment?
No, there are a range of technical measures which may be suitable which do not require the purchase of new equipment. One of the most effective ways of reducing noise exposure is to increase the distance between the noise source and the employees, this usually costs nothing.
What are the organisational measures which can reduce noise exposure?
An example would be staff rotation, so instead of having one person exposed to significant noise all day, utilise 4 persons for the task so they are each exposed for only 2 hours per day (the duration of exposure is reduced which reduces the daily noise exposure). This approach is often successfully combined with other noise reduction measures to reduce noise below an exposure action value.
What is a competent person with regard to assessing workplace noise exposure?
A person who has the appropriate experience and training to measure noise and recommend suitable control measures in line with UK legisalation, so as to successfully minimise the risk of hearing damage.
HAV – Frequently Asked Questions
What are the early signs and symptoms of HAVS?
Tingling and numbness in the fingers, loss of feeling or strength in the fingers and finger blanching attacks when they become cold or wet.
What types of tools produce vibration to the hand?
Any hand operated/guided power tool can produce vibration exposure to the operator. Typical hand-held or guided tools are sanders, grinders, disc cutters, hammer drills, concrete breakers, chipping hammers, needle guns, strimmers, hedge cutters and chainsaws.
Is HAVS only caused by vibrating hand tools?
Sometimes a work piece is held up against a source of vibration and the vibration is transmitted to the hand via the work piece (as with a pedestal grinder).
What is used to measure the vibration magnitude of a tool?
A specialist instrument with a tri-axial accelerometer attached to the handle(s) of the vibrating tool.
RPE Face-Fit Testing – Frequently Asked Questions
What type of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) needs face-fit testing?
All tight-fitting RPE requires face-fit testing. So tight-fitting ‘respirators’ such as FFP1, FFP2, FFP3 ‘disposable’ masks, half masks and full-face masks all require face-fit testing on each wearer. In addition, positive pressure (air fed) masks also need face-fit testing if they are the tight-fitting type. Loose-fitting RPE (e.g. hoods) does not require fit testing.
When do I need to repeat a RPE face-fit test?
If the type, make or model of RPE is changed a new face-fit test is required. If an individual’s face has changed shape due to putting on or losing weight, or due to trauma or dental work a repeat test is also required. It is considered good practice to carry out regular repeat RPE face-fit testing of employees. A standard period is not stipulated by the HSE, but a company policy can be derived based on the potential risk of harm to health. For instance, employees conducting asbestos removal work are recommended to have RPE face-fit tests on an annual basis.
Are there any other benefits of repeat RPE face-fit testing?
Repeat RPE face-fit testing can pick up other deficiencies in a RPE management programme such as poor maintenance of the RPE and inadequate training on how to correctly don the RPE. Repeat fit testing using an individual’s RPE will highlight any issues with the mask integrity, such as small holes or deteriorated exhalation valves. Also, if the RPE is not donned correctly the individual will probably not pass the test. Therefore, instruction is provided on how to don the mask correctly.
Is a RPE face-fit test all I need to do to ensure that the RPE provided to my employees is suitable and sufficient?
No. RPE face-fit testing matches the RPE to the individual. The RPE also needs to protect against the level and type of airborne hazardous substances present in the external air and be suitable for both the task and location the work is being conducted.
When should RPE face-fit testing be conducted?
Fit testing should be conducted on issue of RPE or when any employee is identified wearing RPE which has not been fit tested. In such cases, the fit test should be performed with the individual wearing their RPE.
How long does a RPE face-fit test take?
About twenty minutes if the individual passes first time. If the person fails to reach the required fit factor on any of the 7 exercises, then the whole test has to be repeated. Initially, the same RPE may be adjusted to improve the fit, then a different size, make or model of RPE may be tried. These individuals obviously take longer to test and fit – but are exactly the employees the process is trying to identify and protect.
Do beards interfere with the seal of tight-fitting RPE?
Yes, individuals who wear tight-fitting RPE should not grow beards or stubble as it can interfere with the face seal. Loose-fitting RPE can be worn with facial hair.
How do you determine if someone conducting a RPE face-fit test is competent to undertake the test?
The HSE believe that competency of fit testers can be demonstrated by accreditation to the BSIF Fit2fit scheme. These fit testers have passed practical and written tests to show they are competent in face fit testing.