To protect workers from breathing in hazardous substances, you must identify if there are any respiratory hazards at your workplace. Respiratory hazards can look different in every workplace, and might include:
- Silica dust from fabrication, installation, maintenance and removal of engineered stone
- Dusts from cutting, crushing and grinding concrete and tiles
- Airborne flour dusts from mixing ingredients
- Welding fumes
- Exhaust fumes
- Fumes and vapours from working with some paints, glues and varnishes
- Fumes and vapours from working with pesticides and adhesives
- Chemical vapours in rubber and chemical manufacturing
You can identify respiratory hazards by:
- looking at your workplace
- talking and consulting with your workers
- reading any labels and safety data sheets
- talking with your WHS regulator
- engaging a professional such as an occupational hygienist.
Once you have identified the hazard, you need to undertake a risk assessment to consider what could happen if your workers are exposed to the hazardous substance and the likelihood of it happening. A risk assessment will assist to:
- identify which workers are at risk of exposure
- determine what sources and processes are causing the risk
- identify if and what kind of control measures should be implemented, and
- check the effectiveness of existing control measures.
It is important to consider everyone in a workplace who may be impacted by hazards. This could include tradespeople, suppliers, and on-site office staff.
A risk assessment can be undertaken with varying degrees of detail depending on the type of hazard and the information, data and resources that you have available. It can be as simple as a discussion with your workers or involve specific risk analysis tools and techniques developed for specific risks or recommended by safety professionals. For some complex situations involving respiratory hazardous, expert or specialist advice may be useful when conducting a risk assessment.
The Model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks provides practical guidance about how to manage WHS risks through a risk assessment process.