RESPIRATORY HAZARDS IN THE WORKPLACE BASIC INFORMATION AND TUTORIALS


Respiratory hazards may be present as
• gases
• vapours
• fumes
• mist
• dusts.

Gases — consist of individual molecules of substances, and at room temperature and pressure, they are always in the gaseous state. Common toxic gases found in construction are carbon monoxide from engine exhaust and hydrogen sulphide produced by decaying matter found in sewers and other places.

Vapours — are similar to gases except that they are formed by the evaporation of liquids (e.g., water vapour). Common vapours found in construction are produced by solvents such as xylene, toluene, and mineral spirits used in paints, coatings, and degreasers.

Fumes — are quite different from gases or vapours, although the terms are often used interchangeably. Technically, fumes consist of small particles formed by the condensation of materials which have been subjected to high temperatures.

Welding fume is the most common type of fume in construction. Other examples include pitch fume from coal tar used in built-up roofing and fume from diesel engines.

Mists — are small droplets of liquid suspended in air. The spraying of paint, form oils, and other materials generates mists of varying composition.

Dusts — are particles which are usually many times larger than fume particles. Dusts are generated by crushing, grinding, sanding, or cutting and by work such as demolition.

Two kinds of hazardous dust common in construction are fibrous dust from insulation materials (such as asbestos, mineral wool, and glass fibre) and non-fibrous silica dust from sandblasting, concrete cutting, or rock drilling.

In construction settings, respiratory hazards may be compounded, depending on the number and variety of jobs under way. For example, both mist and vapours may be present from paint spraying or both gases and fumes from welding.

Health Effects
Respiratory hazards can be divided into the following classes based on the type of effects they cause. Irritants are materials that irritate the eyes, nose, throat, or lungs. This group includes fibreglass dust, hydrogen chloride gas, ozone, and many solvent vapours.

With some materials (e.g., cadmium fume produced by welding or oxyacetylene cutting of metals coated with cadmium) the irritation leads to a pneumonia-like condition called pulmonary edema. This effect may not be apparent

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