Taming aggressive solvents

Posted on 17 Dec 2014 by The Manufacturer

Dangerous substances contribute significantly to the 350m working days lost through occupational ill-health and to the suffering of over 7m people who are victims of occupational illnesses in Europe.*[1]

Businesses work with aggressive solvents, as they’re a necessary evil in the production process.

But the use of harsh and aggressive solvents can have a serious impact on productivity. They present a danger to workers, whether it’s in the form of irritant contact dermatitis, or longer-term damage to health. That can mean lost man-hours in injury and sickness. Which in turn leads to a slow-down in productivity, with detrimental impact on delivery schedules and production targets.

It’s a balancing act – businesses are under pressure to maximise productivity, while at the same time, they are committed to ensuring the health and safety of the workforce. So what can be done to protect the workforce – and protect productivity?

The answer is actually very simple, and lies in familiar supplies. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can give the workforce the protection they need.

Types of PPE include:

  • Protective gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Respirators
  • Protective clothing
  • Protective footwear

Clearly, it’s essential that the PPE companies provide is fit for purpose and meets agreed Health & Safety standards. PPE should be used when all other measures are inadequate to control exposure to aggressive solvents.

There is no doubt that PPE plays a definite and valuable role in keeping workers safe from harm. For example, while 15% of workers have to handle dangerous chemical substances as part of their daily tasks, wearing gloves has been proven to reduce the relative risk of injury by 60%.[2]


  • PPE only protects the wearer
  • It is ineffective if not working or fitted properly
  • Theoretical levels of protection are seldom reached in practice
  • The use of PPE always restricts the wearer to some degree
  • The psychological effect may be such that the individual wearing the PPE feels more protected than he or she actually is If PPE is properly used, stored and maintained, it can prevent workplace injury and lost man-hours

However, it is only a partial solution to a bigger problem – the use of harsh and aggressive solvents.

As well as providing PPE that is fit for purpose and effective, another way to protect workers is by limiting their exposure to dangerous solvents and fluids. Optimising solvent consumption, substituting less harsh solvents and increasing worker training/education around solvent handling and storage can all contribute to a safer work environment.

No matter how well businesses know their own shop floors, a fresh pair of eyes will often find new risks – and new solutions to help keep productivity up.

That’s why we recommend conducting a Waste & Hazard Walk with one of our experts. Waste & Hazard Walks are a proven way to identify opportunities to reduce risk. They’re very easy to arrange, and often throw up surprising results.

[1] *Source: OSHA Europa

[2] Source: OSHA Europa