Look Beyond Air Sampling Results

Our company, The Lawson Group, has been conducting various types of industrial hygiene exposure monitoring projects for many years. Typically we do the work as a result of some sort of complaint situation.

An employee claims to have been exposed to what they call, “Methyl-something-ethyl-bad-stuff” and the employer (our client) has hired us to “prove” that there really isn't a problem.

Many times they want to do this by doing personal and/or area air sampling to collect data for comparison to OSHA and or other applicable standards. They hope to be able to use the data to show themselves and the employee that there is no problem and they “don’t have to do anything else.”

As anyone who has done this type of exposure monitoring could tell you, many times this type of monitoring will indeed produce “negative exposure” data. In other words all sampling results will be less than applicable exposure limits/

At this point, you usually have to have a conversation with the client that includes the phrase, “Air sampling results were OK but..."

The “buts" can include a wide variety of things, but many times they will include bad work practices, or poor general housekeeping issues.

For example, we have done a lot of testing for airborne metals in welding operations, and although laboratory results often show no airborne exposure problem, the workplace is so dirty that all the nearby surfaces are covered with dust/debris/films from the process.

In other cases, we have done air testing for a whole slew of solvents involved in a process (all of which came back below limits) but noticed during the sampling employees doing work without the proper PPE such as gloves.

In all of these cases, the “real” exposure issue is not from airborne“Methyl-something-ethyl-bad-stuff” but from improper use of PPE or from bad housekeeping, which has increased the potential exposures (and the potential adverse health effects) to employees through skin contact.

Employers must look beyond just air monitoring results to include employee behavior and work practices to obtain a true idea of workplace hazards.  Many times the client does “have to do something else” (clean, enforce proper PPE use), even though air sampling results are acceptable.

Do you have questions about how you improve your workplace's air quality and general safety? Don't hesitate to contact us today for more information.

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