Control of Substances Hazardous to Health - COSHH Level 2 (VTQ)

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Solvent Safety: Risks, Effects, and Precautions

Understanding Solvents

Solvents are chemical substances used to dissolve or dilute other materials and substances. They are often found in industrial settings under various trade names, sometimes referring to the same chemical substance.

Industries at Risk

Individuals working in industries such as engineering, construction, chemicals, printing, rubber, plastics, pharmaceutical manufacturing, woodworking, dry cleaning, and paint manufacturing are most likely to encounter solvents. However, exposure can occur in various environments, including offices where solvents are used for cleaning purposes.

Health Effects

Solvents can enter the body through inhalation of vapors and fumes, direct skin contact, or ingestion. Short-term effects may include:

  • Eye irritation
  • Lung irritation
  • Skin irritation and dermatitis
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness

Prolonged exposure or exposure to high concentrations can lead to impaired coordination, unconsciousness, and even death. Long-term effects vary depending on the solvent but may include dermatitis and other health complications.

Protective Measures

Implementing precautionary measures can help mitigate risks associated with solvent exposure:

  • Receive comprehensive information and training on solvent hazards and precautions from your employer.
  • Refer to safety data sheets and container labels provided by suppliers for guidance.
  • Wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) as supplied by your employer.
  • Store protective equipment in a clean and accessible location.
  • Maximize natural ventilation by opening doors and windows where appropriate.
  • Minimize solvent evaporation by using the minimum required amount for tasks and keeping containers sealed.
  • Dispose of solvent-contaminated materials properly in closed containers.
  • Preferentially use solvent-free or reduced-solvent materials.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation and wear appropriate PPE when working in confined spaces.

Seeking Assistance

If you believe your health is affected by solvent exposure or if safety precautions are inadequate, communicate your concerns to your supervisor, safety representative, or doctor for appropriate action.