Fiberglass is the trade name for the man-made fiber that is also called fibrous glass or glass wool. The main component of fiberglass is glass; it was first used in the 1930s in home furnace filters and insulation. It is also is used to insulate pipes and appliances, for sound control in aircraft and automobiles, and in curtains and roofing material and even in some plastics.
The Risks of Fiberglass Exposure
When fiberglass is modified in any way—cut, chopped, sanded, sawed, etc., the dust produced could land on the skin of those around, or it can be breathed in or swallowed. This typically only occurs when people are working with fiberglass; once it has been installed, exposure does not take place unless the object is moved, like in a remodel.
Exposure does have its risks, though. Fiberglass is an irritant. Health effects from exposure to fiberglass vary depending on the size of the fiber and type of exposure. Larger fibers can cause skin, eye and upper respiratory tract irritation. All types of exposure can cause a rash, especially if the fibers become embedded in the outer layer of the skin. Exposure to fiberglass can also cause the eyes to become red and irritated; soreness in the nose and throat can result if the fibers are inhaled. Those with asthma and bronchitis will find these conditions may be aggravated by exposure to fiberglass. Additionally, if swallowed, temporary stomach irritation can occur. Typically, these problems subside once the contact with fiberglass has ended. However, there are some concerns that fiberglass can cause more serious problems.
Personal Protective Equipment Required for Fiberglass Handling
Some personal protective equipment, or PPE, is required for handling fiberglass. These items should be provided by employers to help employees protect themselves from fiberglass exposure. This includes safety glasses or goggles to prevent any fibers from entering the eyes, as well as masks that cover the nose and mouth which will help prevent workers from inhaling or swallowing the fibers. Additionally, employers should provide gloves to reduce their employees’ skin contact with fiberglass and help prevent irritation. If employees are regularly exposed to fiberglass dust, they should be provided with masks with respirators, these contain filters that prevent dust and other particles from entering employees’ mouths and respiratory systems.
Another element of fiberglass PPE is clothing. Anyone working with fiberglass will want to choose the right clothing, as well. Appropriate clothing will help minimize contact with fiberglass fibers and reduce the risk for irritation and injury. Employees should choose pants and long-sleeve shirts when working with fiberglass, as the fabric helps prevent fiberglass dust from irritating the skin and it helps reduce the risk of fibers becoming embedded in the skin. Disposable protective clothing may be provided by employers. This fiberglass protective clothing can be donned before employees begin working with the material, and then left for the employer to launder. It saves both employees and employers time and money.
Disposable protective coveralls garments, like those made by International Enviroguard, and other disposable PPE coveralls safeguard employees, productivity and operations.
Employers should also provide appropriate first aid in case of exposure. Hand and eye wash should be provided—as well as tweezers, in case any fiberglass splinters become embedded in the skin.
Employers should also make sure their employees work with fiberglass in well-ventilated areas. Areas with windows or doors that can be opened help reduce dust levels. Shop vacuums should also be provided to remove fiberglass dust from the work area. After working with fiberglass, employees must wash all of their clothing separately from other items. After washing those articles of clothing, be sure to rinse the washing machine before washing any other clothing.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulates fiberglass as a nuisance dust, rather than as a cancer-causing agent (like asbestos). The state of California, however, requires fiberglass to be labeled as a potential cancer-causing agent. OSHA has set the permissible exposure limit for fiberglass as 15 mg per cubic meter for nonrespirable fibers and 5 mg per cubic meter for respirable fibers.
OSHA also requires all fiberglass products to have warning labels that indicate that fibrous glass is a potential carcinogen. They require all employers to maintain safety data sheets for every fiberglass product used in the workplace. These safety data sheets must contain information about the chronic health effects of exposure to fiberglass.
International Enviroguard designs and manufactures a wide variety of disposable protective clothing to help protect employees who work with fiberglass. Their PPE garments protect employees, productivity and operations with disposable products that fit your budget and your needs.
Our disposable protective products shield your team from exposure while preserving the comfortable dexterity they need to do their jobs with confidence. We use innovative materials designed for worker comfort. Products are produced to meet ANSI sizing standards for a better fit, greater mobility, and fewer rip-outs.
We provide engineered protection for the best total cost in use. Our comfortable fit, performance, and quality enable you to reduce product waste through fewer rip-outs and increase safety through better worker compliance. We deliver more than products. We give you the power to enhance protection and improve productivity while reducing your overall production costs.
Contact International Enviroguard today to see what we can do for your team. We will keep your employees safe from fiberglass exposure and keep your facility running smoothly.