My experience is that personal monitoring is a much underused tool in the box, often given lip service, ignored completely or done in a huge rush in the 6 months before license renewal. When it is not overlooked it is rarely used in a way that is of much practical use. Certainly the asbestos management databases that I have seen out there don’t seem to handle the data in any meaningful way.
Why is asbestos monitoring important?
Exposure monitoring should not be seen as another regulatory requirement that must be complied with, rather an excellent way of auditing removal techniques and therefore designing better ones.
Other than ‘Error’ (test results representing something other than what was stated). Measured exposure significantly above or below that anticipated indicates one of the following:
- Something went wrong on site and the method was not followed
- The selected method was followed, but it was inappropriate for the real task at hand
- The anticipated levels are artificially high or low due to poor understanding of the process
- Excellent innovation by the Contracts Manager in designing the method
- Excellent innovation by the site team
All of these events should be investigated – 1 & 2 as something went wrong, 4 & 5 because there is good practice to pass on. In fact 1 & 2 should be treated as an accident/incident and investigated. Measured exposure at the anticipated could be viewed as a near-miss.
A well constructed Excel sheet can process this data adequately, but a database would make the extraction and investigation a smooth joined up process.
Obstacles to the process that I have come across are – actually doing the personal monitoring with regularity and enough spread to cover all activities, the site team (‘we’d get in trouble if we gave them a high reading’) and the analyst themselves (too high limits of detection and vague/non-existent description of the activity tested). The last two can be solved by education.
Properly collected and collated data could then inform better research (at company or industry level) in areas that might make a big difference to the lads in the enclosure.
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