Work with dangerous chemical and biological substances

Many different dangerous substances occur in the building sector. The dangerous substances can occur during different building phases, such as during earthworks, demolition or during construction.

Some common dangerous substances are:

  • asbestos
  • quartz (dust)
  • thermosetting plastics.

In general, many building materials such as paint, joint sealant, insulation, wet room slabs, concrete products etcetera, contain certain dangerous substances, which means that one must use different types of protective equipment. It is, therefore, important that one reads the product information sheet before using a new product.

Fundamental during risk assessment of work with dangerous substances is to work in three steps:

  1. Find out which chemical risk sources there are, their dangerous characteristics, and what regulations apply for using the substances.
  2. Identify dangerous situations.
  3. Decide which measures are necessary in order to reduce the risks.

Occasions when an investigation and risk assessment should be done:

  1. When you have new or previously unassessed work.
  2. With changes in the prerequisites, for example new risk information, new working methods, or new technical equipment.
  3. Before temporary work is begun.
  4. Every time work will be started in a cistern, well, silo, pipe, deep pit/excavation, or similar closed space.

In some work, for example building work with demolition, one meets risk sources that you have not been able to know about in advance. In these cases, one must do the risk assessment for the types of chemical risk sources that are possible, and prepare measures for them.

Work with dangerous substances demands knowledge and that the employees receive special training and knowledge. Sometimes the employees must undergo special medical checks. Work with asbestos, quartz and thermosetting plastic are examples of chemical substances in the building sector that have special requirements.  

Asbestos work requires, in addition, both special permission and documentation, which must be approved by us at the Swedish Work Environment Authority. All work with asbestos during demolition must, in addition, be reported beforehand to us.

Work with dangerous substances during moving work places specific demands on the use of special personal safety equipment. It also demands planning so that other employees are not subjected to the dangerous substance.

To prevent an employee from being subjected to dangerous substances, there are demands for stocktaking of substances that are harmful to health, before construction work begins. The responsibility for carrying out the inventory is with the client, the building work environment coordinator for projection and planning, the building environment coordinator for execution, and the employer.

Asbestos, thermosetting plastic, and quartz

Asbestos occurred in construction work until about 1976, and was completely banned in 1982. It is a mineral, and was used for insulation, paint, fixatives, joints, and sheet material for walls, ceilings and floors. It was used because it was fire resistant, heat-insulating, noise insulating, and generally had good mechanical durability. The risks arise during demolition and other work. Asbestos products cause dangerous dust that can cause pulmonary illnesses and cancer.

Thermosetting plastics are found in some joint foam, in fire seals, special paint for, for example, floors and steel (epoxy), and insulation on district heating pipes. Thermosetting plastics can cause allergies or other oversensitivity.

Quartz (rock dust) occurs in stone and cement work because it is a mineral that is present in great amounts in our most common rocks, granite and gneiss. This means that the risks exist during many different types of work such as penetrating and chopping in concrete, civil engineering work with earth and stone, drilling in rock and during demolition. Quartz dust can cause pulmonary illnesses and possibly also cancer.

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Last updated 2016-09-13