Employers have a right to protect their employees from exposure to toxins. Utilizing a hierarchy of control is recommended by the United States Department of Labor, and it’s one of the key methods of protecting employees from toxins.
The following type of control, from the bottom up, will be used to protect employees from toxins:
- Personal protective equipment. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is meant to reduce the risk of exposure to toxins. This equipment would include eye protection, gloves, respiratory protection and clothing that is chemical protective.
- Administrative and work controls. When a job requires employees to be exposed to toxins, it’s recommended that controls are put in place to rotate job assignments. The goal is to be able to adjust work schedules so that workers are never overexposed to hazardous chemicals.
- Engineering controls. Physical changes to the workplace should be made to help reduce or eliminate hazards. Examples of controls may mean using wet methods, which have been used when dealing with asbestos and other dusts or particulates that can cause harm to employees. Dilution ventilation, fume hoods and isolating the toxic process are other examples of controls that can be put in place to reduce toxic exposure.
- Elimination. The final control is either the elimination of the toxins or seeking out safer alternatives. Eliminating the toxins is the best course of action, and this will allow for employers to keep their employees safe.
Hazard Communication Standards (HCS) are also in place, and following HCS is recommended for all employers. What these standards do is allow for a common and coherent approach to determining and labeling which chemicals are unsafe.
Employee training should also be part of an employer’s plan to protect employees from exposure.
Training will help employees know which practices to follow when dealing with toxins, what safety measures to follow and what equipment should be worn. The goal is to have employees learn of the risks and protective measures that should be taken to lower the risk of toxin exposure.
When employers add new toxins into their operation, it’s important that management review the toxin and new safety precautions that should be taken. In the ideal world, toxins would be eliminated completely and replaced with a safer alternative.
But when these toxins are unavoidable, it’s essential that management take measures to limit the exposure of the toxin to employees.
Finally, employers should implement an anonymous complaint system that will allow employees to provide feedback on the work environment in such a way that the employee don’t need to be concerned about backlash from management or coworkers.
These systems will allow for employees to voice their concerns, such as Bob not using the proper safety equipment or conducting work in such a way that it exposes others to the risks of the toxin.
In the workplace, everyone needs to work together for the safety of all workers, and this includes management listening to their employees and taking any recommendations they have into consideration.
While risk of exposure may not be eliminated, these risks can be kept under control.
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