Sulfuric acid is a chemical that can cause damage through contact, inhalation or absorption. The following are the potential health effects associated with using the acid in a lab setting: Inhalation-Inhaling the chemical has a damaging effect on the upper respiratory tract and mucous membranes. The symptoms of these effects include irritation of the throat and nose, and difficulties in breathing (Health Protection Agency, n.d). It may, also, cause lung edema; which is a medical emergency. Secondly, the chemical is corrosive and swallowing it will cause severe burns in the victim’s mouth, throat and his stomach. This will eventually lead to death. Ingestion of the chemical, also, causes sore throat, diarrhea and vomiting.
In addition, the collapse of the circulatory system, scanty urine and a weak, rapid pulse may follow it skin contact or ingestion. Thirdly, skin contact-causes pain, redness and occurrence of severe burn. Shallow reparations, scanty urine and circulatory collapse may also follow skin contact. Eye contact- causes redness, pain, and blurred vision and may lead to severe tissue burns. It can also make the victim blind. Long exposures to sulfuric acid pose a cancer hazard and teeth damage. It also aggravates the conditions of people with pre-existing eye problems, impaired respiratory or eye problems; making them more susceptible to effects associated with the chemical (Health Protection Agency n.d). Based on the above laboratory hazards posed by usage of sulfuric acid, this paper presents the best research method for selecting the best preventive equipment while using sulfuric acid.
It is crucial to note that the employer should always observe the OSHA’s PPE standard (29 CFR 1910.132 for the General Industry). These standards have been in place for a period longer than a decade and it remains as the basic regulation governing the PPE program. The general requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment cover the following major activities: assessment, selection, training and verification. Therefore, each of the mentioned activities requires a different skill for each. It is, therefore, essential for the employer/managers to designate leaders who have abilities that match the requirements of each of those activities; thus, it may be different persons for each step.
Assess the dangers associated with sulfuric acid usage in the laboratory. Conduct a survey of the laboratory in question. In order for one to choose the right protective equipment, it is crucial to first identify the various hazards in the laboratory. Sulfuric acid is a corrosive acid, and though it is not flammable, it reacts dangerously when in contact with water and other anhydrous and alkaline substances. This, combined with the dangers mentioned at the beginning of this paper, can be used to determine the type of PPE suitable to protect the user against the hazards. One of the people whose advice is sought is the supplier. One should seek advice from the supplier on the various types of Personal protective equipment available and how they suit different tasks. The questions to ask when at this stage are: whether the PPE is appropriate for protection against dangers caused by sulfuric acid if an exposure to the risks occurred, whether it prevents or controls the risk involved without accelerating the total risk level; whether it is adjustable to correctly fit the user; if the current health conditions of those who will be using it has been accounted for; what the job needs are and its demand on the user-for instance, the length of time it needs to be worn, if the job requires communication and visibility from the user and physical effort needed to accomplish the tasks. Finally, one should consider the compatibility of the various equipment to be worn; for instance, whether a certain type of respirator would make it difficult for an eye protection fit properly.
After conducting the assessment, the next step should be fit-testing. This is done to ensure that the user posses the correct device. The user should be given a chance to try out each of the PPE to ensure it goes well with his/her physical features such as facial characteristics and body size. When PPE is finally provided, the leaders should provide the wearers with information on how to use the PPE according to the complexity of the kits. For instance, a reusable kit needs more training than disposable equipment.
The protection of the respiratory system against the danger of inhaling sulfuric acid should be done by use of respirators/facial masks. One should consult the manufacturer on the best type of respirator to use. Some of the factors to consider when choosing RPE is freedom of movement, worker comfort, wearer medical condition, compatibility with other PPEs and the vision or verbal communication needed to do the job. After getting the suitable quality of the RPE, a fit testing should be conducted (Lummis 2011).This should be done during the initial selection stage and should be done by a competent person. The buyer should ensure that the person who conducts the fit-testing is a trained, qualified and experienced employee in that field.
Eye protection- Safety googles should be purchased for protection against sulfuric acid splashes. Safety googles should be tight-fitting and of good quality (UoW 2011). The googles should be of the appropriate thickness and should be made of quality material. The buyer should consult the manufacturer or suppliers on the best protection to use for sulfuric acid. Also, a fit-testing should be done after selecting the suitable material so as to select the best-fitting eye protection according to the wearer’s facial characteristics.
To select the best protection against skin exposure, the first step is to determine the glove and body clothing compound suitable for sulfuric acid. This would be done by checking the concentration of the sulfuric acid to be used. The best way to know this is by checking the percentage concentration on the label of the container. This helps in considering what material is best suited for it. According to PPE.ORG (2012), good glove will provide resistance from degradation and permeation, therefore the researcher should look out for those details on the label of the product or asking the supplier about it. The second step is to conduct an evaluation of the task to be performed so that the researcher can know what type of gloves he will require; supported, unsupported or disposable. Thirdly, one should consider the substances used to make the gloves. Some products are made of substances that may be harmful to the skin or penetrate the body through contact with the skin. To protect from sulfuric acid, a glove that adheres to the European Standard EN374-3 is necessary.
Manufactures use the following terms to describe the efficiency of their gloves: breakthrough time-time taken by a chemical to permeate through the material up to the inside of the glove. This indicates the length of time one can use it. Permeation rate-indicates the amount of chemical that permeates with time. One should, therefore, choose a low permeation rate. Degradation-indicates the rate at which the material of the glove deteriorates when it comes into contact with a certain chemical. One should choose a glove that has a good or excellent degradation rating (PPE.ORG 2012). According to UoW(2011), the best gloves are Butyl gloves, which are made of synthetic rubber.
Also, one should consider the user’s size and comfort. The gloves chosen should fit the wearer- they should neither be tight nor loose. One should refer to the manufacturer’s sizing charts and compare the measurements with the user’s size. Otherwise, it would be better to involve the employee in the buying process to ensure that only the correct sizes are purchased. Finally, one should do a follow-up on the efficiency of the glove by seeking user’s feedback over time(PPE.ORG 2012). The considerations used to select the gloves should be applied to selection of the body clothing and footwear. Shoes should cover the whole leg while the upper part should be made of leather (UoW 2011).
In conclusion, the need to choose a good PPE for use in laboratories cannot be underestimated. Sulfuric acid is a corrosive acid that reacts with many substances once in contact with them such as water, metals and alkalines, resulting to hazards. Furthermore, the acid’s contact with the human body has dangerous effects. Therefore, choosing the right PPE is a concern for anybody working in the laboratory. This should protect users from skin exposure, eye exposure and respiratory exposure thus reducing the risk of potential body harm.
A good research method for getting the best PPE involves assessing the lab situation, checking the suitability of the PPE and how if it conforms to the set safety standards, and fit-testing the PPE on the wearers. In addition, it is crucial to train the users on proper usage and maintenance of the equipments and the need to use them. The main people a buyer should consult while choosing the right PPE are: the manufacturers and suppliers so as to know the components used to make the equipment, safety agencies such as OSHA and European Standard to know the recommended quality products, and the wearers of the PPE for size-fitting.