Occupational poisoning occurs when workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These products can take many forms, such as solids, liquids, gases or mixtures, and can cause adverse health effects, such as acute or chronic toxicity, by the respiratory, dermal or digestive route.
The severity of occupational poisoning depends on several factors, including the toxicity of the chemical molecule, volatility, concentration, frequency and duration of exposure, route of exposure, combinations of products, and the sensitivity of the individual. For example, a single exposure to a high concentration of chemicals can cause acute poisoning, while repeated exposure to lower levels can result in chronic poisoning.
Workers most at risk of occupational poisoning are those in the chemical industry, construction, agriculture, landscape maintenance, mining and health care. To prevent occupational poisoning, employers must take steps to reduce workers' exposure to chemicals, such as ventilation, substitution of hazardous products with safer ones, use of personal protective equipment, and training of workers on chemical hazards.
Definition and Meaning
Occupational poisoning is a condition caused by the exposure of workers to hazardous chemicals in the workplace, which can result in adverse health effects such as acute or chronic toxicity by the respiratory, dermal or digestive route. Workers most at risk of occupational poisoning are those in the chemical industry, construction, agriculture, landscape maintenance, mining and health care. Employers are required to take steps to reduce workers' exposure to chemicals and to report incidents of occupational poisoning to prevent further exposure.
These products can be in different forms, such as
- solids (particles and dusts),
- liquids (mists),
- gaseous (vapors),
- mixed (fumes).
Forms of chemical products
Many of these products are:
Some can cause harmful effects even at low doses and exposure times. The physical structure of a product or its reactivity with the body can also cause risks (for example, silica is inert in itself but becomes dangerous when inhaled in fine particles).
Routes of exposure and severity of poisoning
Workers can be exposed to chemicals through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. The severity of the poisoning depends on:
- the toxicity of the chemical molecule,
- the volatility,
- the concentration,
- the frequency,
- the duration of exposure,
- the route of exposure,
- combinations of products,
- the individual's sensitivity (especially to allergens).
It is important to take preventive measures to reduce these risks and protect the health of workers.
It is important to take preventive measures to reduce the risks of occupational poisoning associated with the use of chemicals. These measures may include:
- Substitution of hazardous chemicals with less hazardous ones,
- Limiting exposure by using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as dust masks, gloves and goggles,
- Implementing safety procedures to handle chemicals safely,
- Training employees on the hazards of chemicals and how to handle them safely,
- Regular monitoring of employee exposure to chemicals,
- Implementing a poisoning alert and incident management system.
It is also important to have emergency procedures in place to respond quickly to accidental chemical exposures. Employers should ensure that employees are aware of emergency procedures and know how to use them if needed.
The bottom line
The use of chemicals in the workplace exposes workers to risks of acute or chronic toxicity through the respiratory, dermal or digestive routes. It is important to take preventive measures to reduce these risks and protect the health of employees, as well as to put in place emergency procedures in case of accidental exposure.