Wood preservation facilities, general recommendations: chapter A-6

6. Protection of Personnel

6.1 First Aid, Precautions and Hygiene

worker wearing protective equipment looking into a tank

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Precautions and personal hygiene measures should be put in place to minimize the contact with the preservatives by the workers.

Potential routes of exposure of the preservative solids or solutions by the workers include:

  • Ingestion
  • Skin/eye contact
  • Inhalation of vapours/ mists/ dusts
  • Other routes

The degree of exposure and severity of the effects can be minimized if appropriate protective measures are in place. Table 6 provides practices on general precautions and hygiene measures.

Signs and symptoms of chronic illness related to long-term wood preservative exposure should also be known, documented and made available to employees. Long-term effects from frequent low concentration exposure may be difficult to document but should nevertheless be taken into consideration.

The severity and rapidity of effects to human health is usually greater with higher concentrated solutions or solids. These factors and the severity of symptoms diminish as the solution is more diluted. The general rule for dealing with exposure is as follows: the higher the concentration of a preservative to which a worker is exposed, the greater the need to provide appropriate protective measures and immediate response if contact occurs. If there is any doubt as to the concentration of a solution that a worker comes in contact with, the strictest response measures should be used (e.g. same as for the most concentrated form).

First aid measures should be retrieved from the pesticide label should be reviewed periodically with the chemical supplier and/or a qualified occupational hygienists or occupational physicians to ensure the information is up to date. Any additional measure that may be present on the MSDS or that is required by the provincial authority should be used.

A summary of the first aid response plan similar to Table 5 should be documented and available on site and preferably with the first aid materials. General precautions and personal hygiene requirements are included in Table 6.

A first aid program should be in place and should include certified first aid personnel at the facility who are familiar with current response measures. A first aid program should be included and training and periodic drills on emergency procedures should be carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and so that all employees are familiar with the procedures. First aid stations should be located in convenient locations that are accessible to all employees and clearly marked. Safety equipment should be maintained and supplies should be replenished.

Barrier devices (e.g. masks, gloves, a CPR pocket mask, etc.) should be made available to minimize the pass on and transfer from the injured person to the first aider.

6.2 Regulatory Controls

Regulatory limits for worker protection are found in provincial regulations and are called Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs). Most of these values are based on the threshold limit values (TLVs) and biological exposure indices (BEIs), recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)

The pesticide label and MSDS contains information with respect to the requirements for controls including personal protective equipment and practices necessary to use the product. The worker protection measures on the pesticide label are mandatory. Provincial or municipal regulations may require additional measures which may enhance, but not reduce, protection.

Always consult with your provincial and local authorities to know the applicable regulatory requirements.

Table 7 provides a template that can be used to summarize the regulatory limits on TLVs and/or BEIs applicable to your facility. The table should be reviewed periodically to ensure the information is up to date.

Under the federal Pest Control Products Act all pesticides, including all wood preservatives, are required to be registered and to carry a pesticide label issued by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. Pesticide labels contain specific requirements for the handling and use of the preservatives as well as the protective measures that apply. These requirements from the PMRA also apply to moldicides, which are considered “antimicrobial” pesticides.

6.3 Safety Precautions

Safety precautions should be part of the worker protection program and this should be part of the employee training program to ensure safe workplace practices for each activity during the treatment process.

The facility must comply with the requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) found on the registered pesticide label. Any additional PPE that may be present on the MSDS or that is required by the provincial authority should be used. Minimal PPE requirements are provided in Table 8 and additional requirements specific per preservative are provided in Part II - Preservative-specific Information and Recommendations, Table 8, under the appropriate chapter.

6.4 Biological Monitoring of Exposed Workers

Biological monitoring is a useful tool for evaluating the long-term effectiveness of the health and safety measures. Routine biological monitoring of exposed workers (primarily those who handle preservatives and treated wood, e.g., plant operators and quality control personnel) is strongly recommended and is achieved using established procedures for determining the presence of the preservatives, their components and other toxic chemicals used at the facility. Biological monitoring is not a simple medical assessment for fitness. These procedures may include hair, urine and/or blood testing when possible. Note that biological monitoring might not be able to detect all preservative ingredients and solvents used. In cases where chemical indicators are not detectable, the monitoring of potential symptoms of exposure effects should be conducted. These procedures may include x-rays, nasal and skin evaluation and/or blood testing. Refer to Table 26 - Recommended Routine Workplace Monitoring in Section 10.2 of this chapter.

Monitoring programs should be carried out and interpreted by qualified occupational hygienists or occupational physicians. Proper documentation of the monitoring result is recommended, and results should be assessed by qualified occupational hygienists or occupational physicians periodically. If there is concern due to confidentiality issues and/or sample handling procedures, these can be addressed and resolved by a joint management-worker committee.

A comprehensive occupational health and safety program is important for worker health and safety. Two components of such a program are environmental and worker health monitoring, which may be used to assess worker exposure to wood preservatives.

Since occupational health and safety is under provincial jurisdiction, the appropriate local workers’ compensation board or department of labour should be contacted for specific requirements for wood preservation facilities.

Users may also consult the following organization for further information:

Recommendations for biological monitoring of the workplace and the environment are presented in Section 10 of this chapter.

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