Those who work in the surface engineering industry, and especially those who carry out electroplating processes, will already know about the short and long-term effects of substances of very high concern (SVHC).
The REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulations were introduced to restrict the use of certain chemicals in the European Union. Included in REACH were many substances used within the surface engineering sector such as chromium trioxide and hexavalent chromium compounds
It is widely known that the use of these chemicals/compounds means that workers who are over exposed to them risk serious health effects including cancer, asthma and dermatitis.
The SEA and the HSE, as well as 53 electroplating companies based in the UK, were involved in three years of research. The aim of this was to investigate as to whether repeated biological monitoring over time would be able to drive improvements in exposure control in the electroplating industry.
SEA members were given the opportunity to be involved in this vital research project. It was important that members, both involved in electroplating and who use these chemicals in their processes, were involved in a research project that could have a significant impact on chemical use in the surface engineering industry. Those companies who did take part were asked to submit regular data and samples to support this research.
Biological monitoring, air monitoring and surface and dermal contamination were continually monitored. The project scope, results, statistical analysis, discussion points and the study’s conclusions have been published in a document titled, “The use of bio-monitoring to assess exposure in the electroplating industry”, which can be downloaded here.
The conclusion drawn was that the exposure to SVHC occurred “via a combination of inhalation, dermal and ingestion routes.” With the introduction of precautionary measures and the design of exposure control strategies, many of the risks could be easily and cost-effectively eliminated or controlled.