What is it about?
In the industrial field, the notions of danger, risk and accident are often mistaken.
In a first step, we will recall the different definitions and, in a second step, we will discuss the concept of risk prevention and its application for protection in the chemical, biological and radioactive industries.
For example, in industry, the danger can be a volatile, flammable, toxic, corrosive substance, or a pressurized system, or a high temperature oven, or even a pathogenic micro-organism.
- Hazard is the intrinsic property of a product, equipment or process. The hazard can cause harm.
- The risk is the exposure of the target (the employee for example) to the danger: it is a function of the probability of occurrence of the feared event (accident) and of the seriousness of the consequences.
To give an image, crossing a highway on foot represents a high risk (high probability of causing an accident and consequences that can be very serious), while crossing a country road on foot represents a low risk (lower probability of encountering a vehicle and generally less serious consequences, with few over-accidents for example).
In an industrial setting, an employee handling a liquid chemical product is exposed to the risk of splashing.
- The accident or damage is the negative consequence of a dangerous phenomenon: for example, the inhalation of solvent vapors can lead to irritation of the upper airways (mouth, nose, pharynx, larynx).
Prevention of professional risks
It is the set of measures to be implemented to preserve the health and safety of employees, improve working conditions and promote well-being at work.
General principles of prevention
Avoiding risks, i.e. eliminating the hazard or exposure to the hazard;
Assessing the risks, i.e. evaluating the exposure to the hazard and the importance of the risk in order to prioritize the preventive actions to be taken;
Fighting risks at source, i.e. integrating prevention as early as possible, particularly at the design stage of workplaces, equipment or operating procedures;
Adapting work to people, taking into account individual differences, in order to reduce the effects of work on health;
To take into account the evolution of the technique, i.e. to adapt prevention to technical and organizational evolutions;
To replace a dangerous product or process with a less dangerous one, when the same result can be obtained with a solution presenting lesser dangers;
Plan prevention by integrating technology, organization and working conditions, social relations, and the environment;
Give priority to collective protection measures and use personal protective equipment in addition to collective protection measures if these prove insufficient;
Give appropriate instructions to employees, i.e. train and inform them so that they are aware of the risks and prevention measures.
What you need to remember
The prevention approach is a method that makes it possible to deal with all situations. It is directly deduced from the general principles of prevention. To apply it, it is sufficient to clearly formulate the danger and then treat what can be treated in the following order: eliminate or reduce the danger, eliminate or reduce exposure, set up collective protection, set up individual protection, give instructions, and organize first aid.
Personal protective equipment
The following reference document (INRS) can be followed:
PPE is defined by the “French Code du Travail” as “devices or means intended to be worn or held by a person in order to protect him or her against one or more risks likely to threaten his or her health or safety”.
Remember that personal protective equipment complements collective protection if it is not sufficient.
These equipments are very different both by the risks they protect against and by their degree of complexity.
They must follow specific design and manufacturing rules.
With few exceptions, these technical rules are included in harmonized European standards. PPE is therefore usually assessed on the basis of standards that set out test methods and performance requirements.
PPE has been classified into three categories to which personal protection professionals have associated the succinct terms “Category I, II and III”. These terms are commonly used although they do not appear in the regulations.
Example of PPE: the multipurpose protective suit, specific to industry “Polyindus®” from Ouvry
The properties of this personal protective clothing go far beyond the simple characteristics necessary to qualify as category III PPE (PPE with complex design or against life-threatening hazards according to EU Regulation 2016/425). By referring to this link, one will be able to read the standards that set test methods and performance requirements.
The normative characteristics of Polyindus® are
|High intensity vaporizing liquid chemicals||Type 4|
|Liquid chemicals in limited splashes||Type 5|
|Airborne chemicals||Type 6|
|Biological products in liquid aerosol||Class 1|
|Solid biological particles||Class 3|
|Particulate radioactive contamination||Class 1|
|Phytopharmaceutique : indice de pénétration <5 %||Class C2|
Protection against combined chemical and biological risks, radioactive particles
We can refer to the meaning of these standards by following this link.
Against which chemicals? hydrofluoric acid, chlorine, sulfuric acid, soda, mustard, phytopharmaceutical products..;
Against which biological products ? main infectious agents (pathogenic bacteria, moulds.);
Radioactive particles in the air and radioactive aerosols (Cs 134, Cs 134…).
Technical characteristics are
Polyindus® is made of an air-permeable filter medium containing a layer of carbon microbeads (activated carbon). The outer barrier is hydrophobic and oleophobic, naturally rejecting aqueous and oily liquids. Toxic products in the form of vapors penetrate but are immediately trapped by the absorbent activated carbon filter. The air can circulate freely in both directions and the sweat produced can evaporate into the outside environment.
In the case of isolation technology, an impermeable barrier prevents liquids and vapors from penetrating but also prevents the evaporation of sweat produced on the inside. Even when sealed with tarlatan, the interfaces allow toxic vapors to penetrate through the “pumping” effect. Indeed, when the individual makes movements, it occurs a call of air from outside towards the interior by the effect of depression. This air penetrates necessarily at the level of the interfaces even clogged. The toxic substance trapped between the skin and the internal textile is then entirely absorbed by the skin.
In the case of a filtering fabric, the air that penetrates under the effect of pumping does so through the entire surface of the fabric and is distributed uniformly between the skin and the fabric. The toxin, by competitive effect, is fixed at 90% on the activated carbon placed on the internal surface and at 10% on the skin.
The outer fabric of the Polyindus® is ripstop and water repellent and, along with the skin lining, they are both Oeko-Tex certified. The suit is washable 30 times for a minimum of 90 uses.
Respiratory protection such as the OPC50 mask and OG07 butyl gloves may be used for additional protection.
The physiological characteristics are
One of the main advantages of the filtering system is its ability to evacuate sweat and therefore heat. The thermophysiology is therefore very favorable to this system, which we have discussed in another article on this blog. There is less risk of “heat stroke” and the duration of work without changing clothes is much longer.
The comfort is
PPE does not have to be synonymous with discomfort. In addition to respecting thermophysiology, the suit offers maximum ergonomics (ease, speed of dressing and undressing) and the interfaces are particularly well thought out. Unlike other PPE, the fabric does not make noise and thus allows for quiet vocal exchanges.
The induced effects are
The protection provided by this outfit is perfectly suited to its role as Personal Protective Equipment. However, thanks to its other properties, it brings a lot in terms of productivity with an easier work in difficult conditions, a reduction of the relief thanks to the possibility of working longer and thus less personnel, a cost brought back to the number of use lower than for the disposable clothes, because it is washable and usable at least 90 times.
As far as the environment is concerned, there is a reduction in the cost of treating contaminated waste since there are fewer outfits to destroy.
We have clearly differentiated the notions of danger, risks and accidents.
The prevention of risks respects a certain number of rules including collective protection measures completed by Personal Protective Equipment.
We have presented the characteristics of a multi-purpose PPE and shown that the benefits of using such a product go far beyond the scope of a simple PPE, encroaching particularly on notions of well-being, productivity and environmental protection.