Scand J Work Environ Health 1979;5 suppl 2:30-40    pdf | Issue date: 1979

Occupational hygiene survey of 99 small workplaces with special reference to occupational health services.

by Heikkilä P, Hietanen M, Kakko K, Yrjanheikki E, Hassi J, Tolonen M

In the survey of the need for occupational health services in 163 small firms, a specific survey by qualified occupational hygienists was considered necessary in 99 places of work (55%) employing 1,715 persons. Noise, lighting and thermal conditions, as well as exposure to chemical substances, were assessed and measured. The survey required 80 person-days. Noise was the main problem. Hearing tests were required for 480 workers (28%), four-fifths of whom were employed in industry. The worst sources of noise were machines and tools (e.g., lathes, vibrators, stone drills, and pneumatic tools). Insufficient lighting was observed in 43 workplaces, half of which were in industry and half in service establishments. The most common causes were dirty lamps or lamps out of order or the lack of supplementary lights for specific areas. Thermal conditions were satisfactory except in ten firms where, according to recommended criteria, the temperature and relative humidity were too low. Since the measurements were taken mainly during the winter, the results reflect the effect of the coldest weather on the work environment. Solvents were the most common chemical hazards. They were found in 38 places of work including shops manufacturing metal and wood products, service stations, automobile repair shops, and laundries. One hundred and twenty employees (9%) were exposed to solvents, some only temporarily. Periodic health examinations were required for 55 workers by reason of solvent exposure. Eighty-one employees were exposed to allergenic substances, mainly concrete workers and persons working with epoxy resins or flour dust. Forty-one workers handled substances listed as carcinogens. Most of them worked in metal shops or other plants in which oil mist was present. Paint sprays also contained carcinogenic agents. In planning a survey of a workplace with potential or known problems, the staff of the health center or the company itself is advised to contact the nearest regional institute of occupational health.