Dust Monitoring Services Can be Vital for Health and Safety
South Africa has a long and, many might say, shameful history of the kind of neglect that once left thousands of workers with chronic and frequently fatal respiratory illnesses, such as pneumoconiosis, silicosis, and asbestosis. However, that all changed with the introduction of stringent new regulations that apply not just to the mining industry, but to all employees who may be exposed to one form of hazard or another, whilst at work. Consequently, dust monitoring services have become a common feature of health and safety measures in the nation’s workplaces.
Checking the indoor air quality (IAQ) is important for a number of reasons and it should definitely involve more than just keeping a close eye on the levels of atmospheric dust particles. Gases, such as carbon monoxide, chlorine, radon, and vapour from volatile organic liquids can also prove to be a hazard in some locations, as can microorganisms, such as moulds and bacteria. To determine indoor air quality requires sophisticated dust monitoring services that might include computer modelling of the airflow within a building, as well as collecting samples from the air and the various surfaces within a building for detailed analysis.
While there are a number of self-contained devices available that enable testing for specific contaminants to be conducted in house, the safer and more thorough option is to appoint a specialised industrial hygiene company to undertake this type of investigation. In addition to providing a far more comprehensive programme of dust monitoring services, it will also undertake to identify and to evaluate the risk arising from any other potential hazards in the workplace. Should such risks appear to be significant, the company will also be able to make recommendations regarding how best to eliminate these or to contain them within acceptable levels.
In practice, South Africa’s health and safety regulations do not currently include values for these acceptable limits, and so, local occupational hygiene specialists adopt those recognised by the international community. Similarly, these companies also undertake to comply with the international standards that are applicable to the various testing procedures and equipment.
Every bit as important as the physical dust monitoring services is the efficiency of a building’s ventilation system. Not only does this have an influence on the circulation of suspended particulate matter in the air, but dirty filters could even be adding to overall levels. However, while optimising the internal airflow and regular cleaning of aircon filters are important, this will not detract from the need for stringent control measures and keeping an eye on their effectiveness.
Incidentally, in factories or other locations where airborne hazards are known to exist, it may be advisable to arrange for employees to undergo relevant medical examinations at intervals to ensure that preventative measures are effective. Unlike the dust monitoring services, however, these specialised medicals must be conducted by doctors and nurses qualified in occupational health and would not normally be included among the services of an occupational hygiene company whose primary focus is technical rather than medical.
With its offices in Hartbeespoort, a little under 40 km from Pretoria, IOH Solutions has been operating since 2003 and is a SANAS-accredited and experienced provider of affordable occupational hygiene services that include indoor air quality and dust monitoring.