Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New ANSI Standard Tackles Chemical Health Hazards

In Scott Schneider's article, "A New Approach to Chemical Health Hazards", the author says that although safety hazards are a major focus in construction, but far more construction workers die each year from exposure to chemical hazards than from safety hazards.

OSHA recently revised its HazCom standard to improve and standardize chemical safety information. As part of the revision, chemical manufacturers are updating their safety data sheets (SDSs) and sending them to employers who must pass that information on to employees.

ANSI/ASSE A10.49-2015, Control of Chemical Health Hazards in Construction and Demolition Operations, was developed by a subgroup of the ANSI/ASSE A10 Accredited Standards Committee. It provides users with a step-by-step framework to determine whether chemicals are of low, medium or high toxicity. It then examines key factors to sort the exposure potential into low, medium or high categories. The toxicity and exposure information is then combined to determine whether a chemical hazard control plan is needed, and if so, whether a basic, intermediate or advanced plan is called for to control the potential risks.

The approach was developed with the goal of limiting the need for exposure monitoring. Exposures can vary from day to day, meaning monitoring on one day may provide limited information on how to make decisions for the next one.

"For too long health has taken a backseat to safety in construction," says Schneider. "This new standard will hopefully focus more contractors on the health hazards their workers face and stimulate efforts to control them. Health culture belongs alongside safety culture as an element in any successful construction safety and health program."

The standard will be available soon.