Routes of Workplace Exposure
Cat. No.: H46-2/04-352E
There are four main routes of exposure by which chemicals can contact and/or enter our bodies. Many chemicals can cause direct effects at the point of contact, such as irritation of the skin, eyes,mouth or nose.
Some chemicals can also be absorbed into the body and cause harmful effects on other body systems like the blood, liver or nervous system.
Routes of Exposure
Some chemicals are not harmful by any route of exposure, while others are harmful by some or all of the routes of exposure.
Inhalation (Breathing) - Chemicals in the air can be inhaled into the body through the mouth or nose. In the workplace airborne chemicals may occur in different forms such as gases, vapours, dusts or mists.
Skin Contact -Many chemicals can cause direct effects at the point of contact with the skin.Some chemicals can be absorbed into the body through the skin.
Eye Contact - Chemicals can also come in contact with the eyes as dusts, mists, gases ,vapours,or when liquids are splashed.Some chemicals can be absorbed through the eyes causing harmful effects elsewhere in the body.
Ingestion (Swallowing) - Chemicals can be ingested through the mouth. In workplaces, ingestion can result from hand-to-mouth contact, consuming contaminated food or drink, or smoking cigarettes that have come into contact with a chemical or unclean hands. Sometimes workplace chemicals are accidentally swallowed.
Note: In some workplaces, like hospitals or veterinary clinics, injection is also a possible route of exposure. Biological or chemical substances can be injected into the body by accidentally puncturing the skin with a contaminated needle or other sharp device. Following Universal Precautions is the best means of protection.
To prevent harmful health effects, take steps to eliminate or reduce the hazard. Control at the source, such as substitution with a less hazardous material or industrial process, is the best method.
Bear in mind the specific hazards of the material and the extent and pattern of exposure.
|Route of Exposure||Controls /Practices
(apply to all routes of exposure)
|Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)|
|Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)can be unreliable. If it fails,it can leave a person unprotected.|
|Inhalation||Engineering Controls (isolating or removing the hazard):
|Respirators and protective clothing suitable for the chemical|
|Skin Contact||Chemical protective clothing suitable for the chemical - gloves to full suits|
|Eye Contact||Chemical safety goggles, face shield|
|Ingestion||Chemical protective clothing suitable for the chemical - gloves to full suits|
For additional information and resources visit Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System - Official National Site and/or Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: