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European Week for Safety and Health at Work 2019

Managing dangerous substances in the workplace

Ill health at work places a burden on employers, employees and society in general and workplace health should therefore be given the same focus as workplace safety.

European Week for Safety and Health at Work this year focuses on “Managing Dangerous Substances in the Workplace.”  Exposure to substances can occur through inhalation (breathing in), penetration of the skin or ingestion (swallowing).  Harm from dangerous substances can have both long-term and short-term health effects therefore in order to manage the risks from hazardous substances in the workplace, it is important that employers, managers and staff are all on board.

The nail bar industry is one example of an occupation that can involve being exposed to hazardous substances such as solvents and dusts. This year, officers from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Environmental Health Department are providing advice and guidance to nail technicians in the Borough about some of the health risks to both themselves and clients, and how these risks can best be managed.  The main health risks associated with nail services are:

  • Dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) caused by 'liquid and powder acrylic systems' and 'UV gel nails'.

  • Headaches, dizziness, nausea and irritation caused by acrylic fumes.

  • Asthma caused by dust filings from artificial nails.

The following protection measures can help to reduce the risk of ill health to both staff and clients arising from nail services:

  • Adequate ventilation in the premises.  Premises should have a good standard of general ventilation.  In addition, it is good practice to provide an extractor hood or a downdraught table and these should be examined regularly by a competent engineer.  Charcoal filters, if present, should be replaced as and when required. 

  • Protective gloves and skin creams.  It is recommended that gloves are worn for handling nail products and solvents and thrown away after each use.  Latex gloves are not recommended due to the risk of allergiesSkin creams can help to wash contamination from the skin and help to replace skin oils. 

  • Procedures and housekeeping.  Careful storage, use and disposal of products and a good standard of housekeeping can go a long way in helping to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, dusts and vapours.  It is also important that nail products are not applied to nails that are split, cracked or bruised as this can increase the risk of developing reactions. 

  • Correct usage of UV or LED lamp.  Operators should check whether the brand of gel polish used is compatible with an LED lamp, UV lamp or both and ensure that the lamp is used for a sufficient length of time to cure the gel effectively.  Bulbs should be sourced from a reputable supplier, kept clean and replaced as and when required. 

  • Regular health checks.  If left untreated, dermatitis can become irreversible and if the skin becomes sensitised then a small amount can trigger a bad reaction.  It is therefore important that skin condition is monitored for any early signs of dermatitis and staff should be encouraged to report any problems.  Equally, if staff report sore eyes, runny noses, coughing, wheezing or breathing difficulties connected with work, the employer should consult an occupational health professional for further advice. 

For further advice and guidance, contact Environmental Health on 028 9034 0160 or envhealth@antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk
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