1How do I measure microbial contamination inside the building?
There are a number of ways to monitor the air for bioaerosols which includes impaction, filtration and surface sampling. A passive method used to determine the types of viable microorganisms in a given area is settle plate which involves only exposing a dish filled with nutrients to the air. Active and cost effective methods collect samples using a pump that draws air across a nutrient dish (MAS 100). If a dish of nutrients is used it can be incubated directly to quantify viable microorganisms in the air and identify the types using microscopy and other techniques (e.g PCR). As with other methods, the results of the air sampling methods alone cannot eliminate the possibility that contamination exists because different varieties of microorganisms favor different methods of sampling and analysis. Another reason that an air sample may not completely represent the microorganisms that are present in a building is that sampling may have been performed during a time when the mould was inactive. Therefore follow up sampling for airborne microorganisms is also very important
2What is a biological agent?
Any microorganisms (e.g bacteria, fungi, virus, parasites) which may be able to cause an allergy, infection or toxicity. (HBA regulation, Dept of Labour)
3Which occupations involve exposure to biological agents?
Food production, agriculture, farming, hospitals and laboratories, municipality (refusal and sewage workers) and office buildings from wallpapers, carpets, damp buildings and ventilation systems.
4Should employees receive training regarding handling biological agents?
Yes. Employers should ensure that their employees receive sufficient and appropriate training concerning potential risks, precautions to prevent exposure, use of personal protective equipment, personal hygiene, good work practices, written instruction on action to be taken in case of incidents. (HBA regulation, Dept of Labour)
5When should I start suspecting that IAQ may be a problem?
Air quality should be suspected if many people from the same work environment may experience similar symptoms. If people develop these symptoms within a few hours of starting the workday and feel better after leaving the building, or after a weekend or vacation it is important to investigate the problem.
6What should I do if I suspect that I am ill from exposure to biological agents?
First report to any other member of your company that is responsible for health and safety. It is important to keep track of when you get your symptoms (aches, pains, headaches, etc.) and when they go away. This record will help your safety officer or health professional determine work relatedness.
7How do I know if my skin problem is related to work?
If your skin problems improve when you are away from work i.e. weekends or when you are on leave and reappear or worsen when you return to work. Also note how soon the problem starts when you are back at work. At the NIOH, we run an Occupational Skin Disease clinic where we can assist with diagnosis, management and advice of possible work-related skin problems.
8How do I arrange to see someone about my skin problem?
You can contact the NIOH at Tel no: 011 712 6424/6538 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
9I am allergic to glove powder in latex gloves at work. What can I do?
The allergy is not caused by powder, but by proteins found in the latex gloves. These latex proteins attach to the powder that is added to gloves. When you put on or take of the gloves, the protein-containing powder particles are released into the air where they can be inhaled and can result in latex allergy and respiratory symptoms in sensitive individuals. It would then be advisable to use non-latex, powder-free gloves. There are latex free gloves available in the market e.g. nitrile or PVC gloves. You can also have skin reactions from using gloves, these may be allergic or irritant (friction from the glove powder).
10It is dangerous to wear gloves in my job; how else can I protect myself?
If it is impossible to wear gloves in your job, the only alternative is to use barrier creams. However these are a last resort as they do not protect you from substances that cause allergic reactions. They provide partial protection against irritating substances but they must be chosen carefully and be specific for the substances used in the workplace. Also care should be taken that they are applied carefully and timeously.
11How can I find out if my tight chest is related to work?
Your chest tightness may be related to work if it occurs when you are at work (or soon after leaving work) and improves when you are away from work (e.g. weekends or when on leave). At the NIOH we can assist in the diagnosis and management of your work related respiratory problem. We can do allergy tests (skin prick test and other specialized tests) specific to the materials you are exposed to at work if appropriate. We can also test for reactions to non-specific, common substances (e.g. grass, house dust, trees, cat etc.) in order to determine whether this may contribute to your work-related chest tightness.