What is the required Health Surveillance for isocyanate exposure in WA?

Exposure to hazardous substances used in spray painting, such as isocyanates, can have serious health effects. As is required by “general duty of care” in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and Regulations (1996), employers of spray painters and/or powder coaters are required to provide and ensure a safe work place. Health surveillance for isocyanate exposure is governed by WorkSafe WA.

 What are employers required to do?

 Introduce a system of work that minimizes the risks associated with spray painting (Regulation 5.20)

  1. Arrange Health Surveillance with an Appointed Medical Practitioner (AMP) for persons with significant exposures to Isocyanates (Regulation 5.23).
  2. Provide adequate and appropriate education and training (Regulation 5.21).
  3. Ensure adequate supervision (Section 19(1)(b)).
  4. Provide and maintain adequate washing facilities.
  5. Ensure spray painting is generally conducted inside a spray booth.
  6. Ensure the spray booth is designed, constructed, installed and maintained in accordance with AS/NZS 4114 Spray painting booths
  7. Provide employee access to MSDS of hazardous substances used.
  8. Where necessary, provide suitable protective equipment (Regulations 5.20, 3.33 and 3.40) e.g. Gloves that prevent hand contact with irritant substances; appropriate respirators including air supplied respirators for two part polyurethane painting; eye protection; protective clothing.
  9. Ensure regular maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE).

 If exposure in your workplace is not adequately controlled, health effects can include:

  • occupational asthma (potentially ignored due to a pre-existing asthma)Health surveillance for isocyanate exposure
  • allergic contact dermatitis
  • ‘painter’s syndrome’, which results from long term exposure to organic solvents and affects the brain

Shorter term effects can also include:

  • irritant contact dermatitis
  • burns to the skin or eyes
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • irritation to the nose, throat and lungs
  • headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue

Health surveillance program

Employers are required to provide an ongoing Health Surveillance for isocyanate exposure program for any workers who are exposed to isocyanates in the workplace.

…Health Surveillance with an Appointed Medical Practitioner (AMP) for persons with significant exposures to Isocyanates (Regulation 5.23)

The purpose of the health surveillance, or health monitoring, is to ensure that the employer’s worksite hazard control measures and safe work practices are effective, and being adhered to by employees.

Health Surveillance assessments

The Health Assessment for isocyanate exposure is to include (under schedule 5.3 of the Regulations):

  1. Demography, occupational and medical history and health advice.
  2. Completion of a standardized respiratory questionnaire.
  3. Physical examination of the respiratory system and skin.
  4. Standardized respiratory function tests such as FEV1, FVC and FEV1/FVCThis also referred to as.spirometry. 

Health Surveillance for isocyanates – frequency

  1. New employees to the industry (including apprentices) – initial, and 6 monthly thereafter until no significant result changes are evident after which testing will be annual.
  2. Existing spray painters – initial and 6 monthly thereafter until no significant result changes are evident after which testing will be annual.
  3. Assessment recipients that show results that may be abnormal or significantly changed from a previous assessment maybe recommended for a follow up assessment to investigate possible health issues.

WHP conduct onsite Health Surveillance for isocyanate exposure in Perth and regional WA.

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