In 1996, ECFIA initiated an occupational hygiene assistance programme known as CARE (Controlled and Reduced Exposure) Programme. This is the Occupational Hygiene (OH) aspect of our Product Stewardship Programme (PSP), used to identify exposure and evaluate controls for HTIW uses.
Workplace measurements are taken within the European HTIW manufacturer and select customer facilities, using a statistically based, stratified sampling protocol to collect representative data. The PSP is worldwide in scope and has collected over 27,000 TWA measurements since it began including 10000 TWAs collected in Europe to date.
CARE (Controlled and Reduced Exposure): The occupational hygiene aspect of our PSP is designed to identify, evaluate, measure and optimise controls for HTIW uses. The CARE Programme combines the PSP elements dealing with the development of improved engineering controls and handling practices to minimise the release of fibrous dust at the workplace.
- Workplace monitoring, including both personal and area measurements using PCOM and SEM analysis techniques, is undertaken within HTIW manufacturing sites and customer facilities. Expoure assessments are based on the results of the workplace monitoring, in conjunction with detailed observations and recommendations from qualified occupational hygienists.
- As it is impractical to sample all workers, an independently managed, statistically based stratified sampling programme was devised to collect representative data. Selected individuals are monitored, either for an entire shift, where possible, or a representative proportion of the shift.
- Work with HTIW has been classified into nine distinct ‘functional job categories’ (FJC), representing the various process stages when exposure can occur during the product life cycle. FJC’s include:
- HTIW production: in manufacturing only
- Finishing: sanding, grinding, sawing, die cutting, milling or routing
- Installation: fitting, packing, wrapping, cutting, tamping and hardware installation
- Removal: mould knockout, clean-up/disposal, disassembly, furnace maintenance
- Assembly operations: encapsulation/lamination, stapling, sewing, cutting, ball milling and dry mixing
- Modules: all activities related to module manufacture
- Mixing/forming: mixing and forming
- Auxiliary operations: maintenance, handling /shipping, clean-up, supervision, laboratory
- Other: textile, automotive and other operations not classified elsewhere
- At manufacturing sites FJCs are sampled at a frequency proportional to the number of workers employed in each job function.
- ECFIA has invested considerable effort in the evaluation of effective workplace controls and handling practices in its members‘ own production facilities to control the levels of airborne fibres. The drive for effective exposure control follows the industrial hygiene hierarchy of engineering controls, improved worker practices, and use of respiratory protection.
- ECFIA´s communication programme provides employees, users and other stakeholders with information on control techniques that can be used economically and effectively in user industry workplaces, proper handling practices for HTIW products, health research results and exposure guidelines.
While collected data indicate that there are significant differences in workplace exposure among job categories and among tasks within jobs categories, the overall results to date demonstrate that occupational exposures have decreased over the years since the PSP and CARE programme were instigated. Exposures at customer facilities, which were initially significantly higher, have reduced to practically the same levels as those observed at HTIW manufacturing sites. In more recent years, exposures appear to have stabilised, suggesting that the practical limits of control may have been reached.
The data obtained in the monitoring component of the CARE programme can be used for various analyses and benchmarking.
By repeated monitoring in manufacturers and down-stream user facilities and the development and improvement of best practice, risk-management and protective measures at the workplaces, the CARE Programme has contributed substantially to the understanding, control and reduction of exposure to fibrous dust.
- On average a 57% reduction of exposure has been achieved at those customers selected for repeat visits
- 83% (manufacturers) and 87% (customers) of all TWA samples collected in 2017/18 are below 0.5f/ml (MRG OEL)
- 74% (manufacturers and 77% (customers) of all TWA samples collected in 2017/18 are below 0.3f/ml (New BOELV)
Exposure reduction efforts at HTIW manufacturing sites, and the transmission of best practice and engineering controls to HTIW users, e.g. via the dissemination of guidance and best practice recommendations, can lead to significantly improved work place controls.
The CARE programme helps responsible employers to adequately control and reduce exposure.
ECFIA Workplace Recommendation Documents
These „CARE Guidance“ documents form a comprehensive library of information on safe handling and use of HTIW products. They have been written by industry experts and are designed to give customers of ECFIA members helpful information to put in place effective controls to minimise exposure to airborne fibres. This series of documents will progressively grow as new documents are produced.