Work with soil contaminated with chemicals may be hazardous to health. Without knowing the nature and extent of the contamination, it is impossible to determine the health hazard involved in the work.
Contaminated soil is found in particular during excavation work in connection with the laying of cables and pipes, water, and the excavation of soil from factory grounds, former service stations, etc.
Therefore, it is necessary to examine at an early stage in project planning whether the ground or any part thereof is contaminated with chemicals which are hazardous to health. If it is, it is necessary to find out what chemicals are involved and the extent of the contamination. If you encounter an unknown contaminant, the work must be stopped and the contamination must be investigated.
During planning, it is necessary to attempt to predict accident and health risks and describe how arrangements can be implemented to avoid them.
If an unknown contaminant is encountered during excavation work, for example, it is necessary to stop work and summon a special expert. The Working Environment Authority and the local environmental authorities must also be notified.
The employer must do everything technically possible to avoid employees being affected by the contaminated earth. These may include, for example:
- Overpressure ventilation with fresh air for driver’s cabs.
- Sprinkling dusty work.
- Establishment of diaphragms and pumps so that vapours, fluids, etc. do not penetrate out into the excavated area.
- Work must take place above the excavated area as far as possible.
- Restriction of access to the contaminated area.
Employees must use personal protective equipment if they are unable to carry out the work properly in any other way. This may, for example, include respiratory protection with a fresh air supply, protective clothing, protective gloves and oil-repellent and chemical-proof protective rubber boots. For machine operators and drivers, it may be necessary to use protective clothing, protective rubber boots, gloves and suitable respiratory protection.
Welfare and health measures
There must be access to a canteen, a changing room with one locked for workwear and one cabinet for everyday clothing, washbasins, a bathroom with showers and toilets immediately next to the work site.
Canteens which are kept free of the effects of contamination, where dirty protective equipment must not be carried in.
Personal hygiene is important. It is particularly important to ensure that contaminated skin is cleaned thoroughly. Wash your face, hands and lower arms before every break in the canteen, before going to the toilet and always at the end of the working day. If you do dusty work, you must have a bath before taking breaks, and always at the end of the working day.
The work site, changing rooms, bathrooms and canteens must be cleaned regularly.