Adopted Occupation – Dental Technician (Eileen Blackmore)
Substances hazardous to health
Use of hand / power tools
Slips and trips
Substances hazardous to health
Working as a dental technician can involve exposure to hazardous substances, e.g. metal dust particles, acrylic monomers and polymers, and cyanoacryilates. Substances may have 'acute' (immediate) or 'chronic' effects. A chronic reaction is slower and often builds up after repeated exposures over days, weeks or years. Adverse health effects that may arise from exposure to hazardous substances include respiratory diseases such as occupational asthma and lung disorders, dermatitis (a non infectious skin disease) and irritation or burns to the skin and eyes caused by acids and electrolytes. Some of the substances you work with are carcinogens i.e. they may cause cancer. Exposure to the substance may arise by skin absorption, ingestion or inhalation. Below is information to help you put in place good practice control measures and minimise the risks at your workplace. 1. Many hazardous substances fall under regulations which set duty holders basic requirements to manage the risks. The following link will help you to control substances hazardous to health in your workplace and understand your duties. 2. It is necessary for all hazardous substances to be assessed before being handled and used. This process is known as a COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) assessment. To help you to handle the product safely, look at the manufacturer's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which accompanies the product. Also, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have developed eCOSHH Essentials, a site which helps the user control the use of chemicals step-by-step. 3. If the substance cannot be avoided or substituted for a less hazardous form/substance, alternative means of control should be sought. A possible method of reducing the risk of exposure to substances released into the atmosphere e.g. plaster or dust / debris from grinding could be through engineering controls. For example, the provision of suitable and adequate local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system, can enable a substantial amount of the contaminant to be extracted from the workplace before inhalation. 4. Breathing in certain substances can cause some workers to have an allergic reaction and in some cases develop occupational asthma. These substances are called respiratory sensitisers, and it is important that you are able to recognise the symptoms and prevent or control exposure. View the link for guidance. 5. Anyone using hazardous substances may have to wear some form of personal protective equipment (PPE) and / or barrier cream; however, other measures must be considered and implemented first, to remove or minimise the risk. If selected, used and maintained correctly, PPE can help protect the worker from contact with harmful substances. 6. Occupational dermatitis is particularly prevalent in your industry where workers handle substances known to cause skin problems. Dermatitis is a condition that affects the hands and forearms, as well as the face, neck or chest. Preventing dermatitis at work will help you to manage this issue. More information can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/skin/index.htm 7. Understanding health surveillance at work is a guide on the procedures that can be used to look out for early signs of work-related ill-health. The leaflet briefly explains what health surveillance is about and can help you decide whether there is a need to consider introducing it into your workplace 8. Refer to the latest edition of the HSE guidance note EH40. This is a priced publication that assigns Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) to hazardous substances, in order to protect the long-term health of those that work with them.