Occupational safety

Paracetrix, a new tablet that relieves headaches is being manufactured by the company as the newest addition to the line of medicine that it manufactures.

As a pain reliever, Paracetrix contains the chemicals that are used to produce paracetamol tablets.  One such chemical is Acetic Anhydride which is one of the main raw materials used for the production of paracetamol. As the occupational physician, it is a duty to inform the Management and the employees as to how the work environment can remain safe, healthy, and conducive to working despite the presence of a harmful chemical. Handling of chemicals and use of the same in the workplace is a serious health and safety issue that should be considered by Management when it plans the operations of its business.

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Hence, manufacture itself should not be the concern of the Company, but how the process can possibly affect the health and safety of the workers that it will employ.It is noteworthy that “the process for controlling chemicals requires the integration of a number of elements: the provision of information, an assessment of the risks to health, the control of exposure and an assessment of whether monitoring and health surveillance are required” (“Occupational Hazard Information Sheet: Chemicals”, 2008). As Acetic Anhydride is considered as harmful, it is necessary to take into consideration the safety of workers employed by the company who will be tasked to handle this form of chemical. It is likewise important to point out the harmful effects that exposure to Acetic anhydride can cause in order for management and the workers to appreciate the value of ensuring safety in the workplace. Further, in the process, it is also necessary to point out the measures that both management and the employees can take in order for them to secure their safety.

As a harmful chemical, Acetic Anhydride should always be handled with care. If this chemical is handled without much thought and preparation, it can be detrimental to the safety of the workers of the company. As like any other chemicals, if the same is not properly controlled, “the effects on health and associated costs can be quite significant” (Chemicals: Goggles, 2008). Exposure to Acetic Anhydride can adversely affect one’s health in many ways.

For instance, it has been reported that severe exposure to Acetic Anhydride can cause respiratory problems that can eventually lead to more serious diseases. “Exposure to chemical substances can cause adverse effects on the respiratory system, which consists of the nasal passages, pharynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Respiratory toxicity can include a variety of acute and chronic pulmonary conditions, including local irritation, bronchitis, pulmonary edema, emphysema, and cancer”(“Respiratory Toxicants, 2005). Further, improper handling of Acetic Anhydride can cause irritation to the eyes and to skin. To bolster the stance that exposure to Acetic Anhydride can be detrimental to one’s health, and to point out the need to make sure that workers handling this chemical should be protected, it has been pointed out thatExposure to acetic anhydride in either the liquid or vapor form causes severe irritation of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes in humans.

The vapor of this substance is reported to be irritating even at a concentration as low as 0.09 ppm. Workers exposed to concentrations of acetic anhydride that were higher than 5 ppm experienced acute eye and upper respiratory tract irritation; their symptoms included severe eye pain and difficult breathing. Inhalation of high but unspecified concentrations of this substance can cause bronchospasm and ulceration of the nasal mucosa (“Occupational Safety And Health Guideline For Acetic Anhydride” citing Proctor, Hughes, And Fischman,1996).Hence, it is important to bear in mind that a simple healthy worker can later on acquire severe pulmonary conditions due to prolonged exposure to Acetic Anhydride.

Management should likewise take note of this reality as it is part of the social responsibility of Management to make sure that their workers have a healthy environment. “The matter of business responsibility requires some basic rethinking. Yes, we should expect and demand that corporate executives maintain high ethical standards and be accountable to the community for the consequences of their actions” (Korten, 1996). Fair working conditions does not simply mean the receipt of fair wages, rather the same extends to the right to work at safe and secure workplace. The health and safety of the worker should be an important concern on the part of the Company.In this regard, it is worthy to point out that firstly, the Management should be informed of these effects in order for them to be able to cooperate in disseminating this valuable information to their own workers.

Even if this duty primordially belongs to the occupational physician, Management should likewise give their share. It is advanced that protecting the health and safety of workers can begin the moment the workers that will be tasked in the manufacture of the tablet using Acetic Anhydride are assigned to that type of work by the Company. The workers should be subjected to an examination before they are formally assigned to work that entails exposure to Acetic Anhydride. This type of medical evaluation is recommended for purposes of measuring and evaluating the worker’s fitness to be assigned in a type of work that would require said worker to be exposed to chemicals. Likewise, this medical evaluation will help the occupational physician assess and discover existing medical conditions that the worker may have, and which may possibly be aggravated by the worker’s exposure to acetic hydride or other chemicals for that matter (“Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Acetic Anhydride”, 1996). This is considered as an initial step in order to ensure the safety and promote the health of the workers of the Company.While at work where they are exposed to Acetic Anhydride, the Company should make sure that they issue protective clothing to their workers. The usual materials used to make everyday clothing are not enough protection to the workers.

It must be taken note of that the following materials for clothing have been suggested for use in protective clothing that can be worn by Company workers who will be exposed to Acetic Anhydride for around four (4) to eight (8) hours: butyl rubber and Teflon. Polyvinyl chloride, nitrile rubber, Viton, and natural rubber, as all have demonstrated poor resistance to permeation by acetic anhydride (“Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Acetic Anhydride”, 1996). If the workers are provided with protective clothing, it will be easy for them to move about and perform their work since they are protected from the chemicals.In addition to protective body clothing, the workers should also be made to wear protective goggles. As mentioned earlier, exposure to Acetic Anhydride can likewise cause eye irritation. Hence, the Management should make sure that they eyes of its workers are protected while they are performing their work and duties.

“Safety goggles protect the eyes, eye sockets, and the facial area immediately surrounding the eyes from a variety of chemical hazards. Goggles form a protective seal around the eyes, preventing objects or liquids from entering under or around the goggles” (“Chemicals: Goggles”). If the workers are made to wear goggles, their eyes will be protected from possible intrusion of Acetic Anhydride components. This will also help the workers to concentrate on their work as they will no longer have to worry about their eyes being irritated by the chemicals that they are exposed to. ”Eyewash fountains and emergency showers should be available within the immediate work area whenever the potential exists foreye or skin contact with acetic anhydride” (“Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Acetic Anhydride”, 1996).In addition to this, the Company may also require the workers to wear respirators when it comes to prolonged or extended exposure to Acetic Anhydride. In this regard, they will be protected from the chemical.

In connection to this, the Company should likewise consider having a respiratory protection program for the benefit of its workers. The implementation of this kind of program within the Company will be advantageous to the workers as the “prolonged exposure to respiratory toxicants can cause structural damage to the lungs, resulting in chronic diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, and cancer. Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious lung disease in which airways become restricted or inflamed, leading to difficulty in breathing” (“Respiratory Toxicants:, 2005). The Company should likewise install fume hoods in the laboratory to decrease the exposure of workers to chemical fumes. “Laboratory fume hoods are the most common local exhaust ventilation devices found in the laboratory.  Fume hoods are used to prevent hazardous, offensive, or flammable gases and vapors from mixing with the general room air” (“Handling Chemicals”, 2006). Through the installation of the fume hoods, the air in the workplace will be less contaminated with the components of the chemicals. It is likewise part of occupational safety to make sure that chemicals are disposed of properly.

Of course, occupational risks do not only take place while the workers are in the actual performance of work. They will likewise be exposed to harm and danger if the chemicals are left lying around the workplace and are not stored or disposed of properly after they are put to use. It is noteworthy that containers where the chemicals were once placed still has remnants of the chemicals, and hence, they can still be considered as harmful. “Containers of acetic anhydride should be protected from physical damage and should be separated from water, alcohols, strong oxidizers, chromic acid, amines, strong caustics, heat, sparks, and open flame. Because containers that formerly contained acetic anhydride may still hold product residues, they should be handled appropriately” (“Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Acetic Anhydride”, 1996).In this regard, the Company should instruct its workers to properly handle, not only the chemicals that will be actually used in the actual production of the tablets, but also the chemicals that will no longer be used together with the containers that have been previously used for purposes of storing the chemicals.

“Containers of acetic anhydride may explode in the heat of the fire and should be moved from the fire area if it is possible to do so safely. If this is not possible, cool containers from the sides with water until well after the fire is out” (“Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Acetic Anhydride”, 1996). Additionally, markers and labels should be placed on containers in order to easily store them. The way the chemicals are stored also has an impact in promoting the safety of workers and in making the workplace a conducive place for the performance of work.

In this regard, it is suggested that “laboratories should minimize chemical storage to only those chemicals which will be actively used.  Laboratory doors should remain closed at all times” (“Chemical Safety”).The safety of the workers can likewise be promoted by reminding them that they too, have a responsibility of ensuring their safety at work. In line with this, they should be reminded that eating and drinking should never be done in the work place due to its possible contamination with Acetic Anhydride. Additionally, the Management should make effort in educating the workers about hygiene in the workplace as the same can actually help promote the safety and health of the workers.

In this regard, they should always be reminded to soap and wash their hands before and after they perform their work. More importantly, they should wash and clean their hands if they will be eating, going to the bathroom or touching their eyes or faces after they have been to the workplace. This should be considered as important as contact of the skin with Acetic Anhydride can have delayed burning reactions, and the same can likewise cause dermatitis in the long term sense.The workers should also be instructed to dispose of pieces of clothing that have been in contact with the chemical. They may not me mindful that exposure of the things that they have worn inside the laboratory can still cause them harm if they don’t take preventive measures. For instance, disposable gloves that have been splashed with chemicals should be replaced instantly in order to decrease possible exposure that may be caused by the creation of pinholes. If non-disposable gloves had been used, the same should be cleansed and rinsed thoroughly before the same is kept and stored (“Laboratory Safety Incidents: Chemical Exposures and Burns”, 2004). The foregoing is both a duty on the part of Management and on the part of workers.

The Management should take a strong hand in reminding them of the safety measures and in making sure that safety policies are instilled on the workers and are implemented by them.In summary, the use of Acetic Anhydride in the manufacture of Paracetrix requires the Company to evaluate how the same can possibly affect the health and safety of the workers that it will employ for the production of the drug concerned. It is noteworthy that Management should take precautionary measures in order to ensure that their workers will not acquire illnesses and diseases due to their exposure to the chemical concerned.

It is a social responsibility of companies to take into consideration not only the flow of revenue, but also the safety of their employees. In this regard, the Company should exert effort in educating their workers on the measures that can be taken in order for them to protect themselves. Additionally, the Company should remind the workers to always wear protective clothing and goggles while they are in the laboratory.

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