Employees can be exposed to hazardous dusts and fumes from many different sources in medical and pharmaceutical industries.
The pandemic further highlighted the need for good-quality indoor air when airborne viruses are present. Poor air quality produces its own health risks, especially for pharmaceutical, medical and laboratory workers.
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What hazards do pharmaceutical workers face?
Workers in the pharmaceutical industry face exposure to a number of health hazards. They may work with potentially dangerous fumes and dusts such as hazardous powders, chemical agents, airborne pathogens, chemical solutions and other biological dusts. A high-risk environment must be properly ventilated through the use of up-to-date dust and fume extraction systems.
Workers in the tablet manufacturing industry are often exposed to highly potent pharmaceutical ingredients. Around 25% of all drugs being manufactured around the world fall into this category, according to The Medicine Maker.
If employees operating the tablet pressing equipment inhale hazardous airborne particles, it creates significant risks. As well as via the inhalation of toxins, substances can enter the body via various other means including residue on clothing, through the skin, via the eyes, or through a scratch or abrasion on the skin.
The toxic nature of some of the substances can create serious health risks including cancer, development effects and mutations. Even at very low doses, they can cause severe sickness.
What are the risks to laboratory workers?
As part of the research processes, laboratory workers weigh powders as a routine task. Without the proper safety precautions, including PPE and fume and dust extraction, they can suffer health problems.
Continued exposure to toxic powders can cause toxicity, sensitisation and carcinogenicity, according to research by the University of Wisconsin. Employees who are routinely exposed to non-toxic powders can experience serious respiratory problems.
Even in small quantities, metal powders such as iron, aluminium, magnesium and titanium are potentially flammable. As well as the health hazards, this creates a real risk of property damage in the event of an accident.
Are healthcare workers exposed to hazardous materials?
Many healthcare workers are exposed to chemicals that can pose a risk. These include anaesthetic gases and antineoplastic drugs used to treat patients. In addition, the phenolic and ammonium compounds that sterilise and disinfect work surfaces and equipment come with their own potentially damaging effects.
Fixatives for tissue specimens usually contain chemicals such as xylene and formaldehyde. Inhaling xylene vapour can be particularly dangerous, as it can cause depression of the central nervous system. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness. These can occur even when a worker is exposed to relatively low quantities.
It is essential that all employees wear the relevant PPE; and safe working practices, combined with an effective fume extraction system, will help ensure maximum protection.
The Covid pandemic made everyone more aware of how crucial proper ventilation was in healthcare facilities. The health sector was quicker than any other to identify where improvements could be made, and action was taken to address the purity of indoor air quality.
Ventilation for the pharmaceutical industry
To reduce the risk of airborne pathogens in the pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare industry, the appropriate ventilation systems should be installed to ensure workers aren’t impacted by high levels of potentially harmful substances.
The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992 governs the safety wear that must be worn such as gloves, safety helmets, eye protection and high-visibility clothing. Also, effective fume and dust extraction systems for the pharmaceutical industry are vital.
AirBench offers high efficiency filtration systems and optional stainless-steel construction to protect your employees and products, while complying with COSHH regulations.
Our downdraught benches can be used for dust control in all laboratory environments including weighing, packaging and dispensing processes. For your large-scale weighing and dispensing operations, the AirBench downflow booth is the perfect solution.
Enabling employees to work in continuously clean air, while the process dust is captured without intervention, many of our models can be configured with fume filters to control solvents in the laboratory.
For further information, or to book a demo, contact us today.