Introduction It is often difficult to conduct exposure assessment of chemicals in research facilities of chemical industries or universities, because of the characteristics of laboratory tasks – variety of chemicals handled, relatively short task duration, and irregularity. The comprehensive scheme of exposure assessment for such laboratories was developed, where laboratory staff are engaged in the risk screening stage, and implemented in the large science/engineering university in Japan.
Methods The first part of the scheme is risk screening in respective laboratories. Laboratory staff identifies major chemical handling tasks in their laboratory rooms at first. They perform exposure assessment for each tasks in three ordered steps;
‘revised control banding’ (a qualitative risk assumption scheme developed by Japan Industrial Safety and Health Association and the University–A), and
detector tube measurements.
During this process, the staff finishes the assessment of a task when the identified risk is ‘low’, or they proceed to the next step or take risk mitigation measures when the identified risk is ‘medium/high’. The result of this process is then collected and examined by a few occupational hygienists who oversee the whole research facility. The hygienists preform personal exposure assessments for tasks having residual risk, as the second part of the scheme.
Result This scheme was implemented in Tokyo Institute of Technology (with 14 000 faculties/staff and students) for about one year. Exposure screening was smoothly performed by ab. 220 laboratory groups for ab. 2100 chemical handling tasks. The numbers of conducted assessments in steps (1,2), and (3) were; 2100, 1300, and 170 respectively. Tasks with medium/high risk were effectively squeezed out throughout the process. The number of high-risk tasks finally identified was quite small.
Discussion It has been demonstrated that the developed scheme is very effective and practical for exposure assessment in chemical research facilities.
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