Hazard communication Workplace exposures

Vapors from isopropyl alcohol can irritate, ignite: hazard alert

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Tumwater, WA — Vapors from isopropyl alcohol solutions and disinfecting wipes can irritate workers’ eyes, nose and throat; cause dizziness and headaches; and build up in the air and easily ignite, warns a new hazard alert from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

Employers with workers who use solutions or wipes with IPA, also known as rubbing alcohol, to clean and disinfect surfaces must ensure the facility has proper ventilation.

According to the alert, two recent incidents involving exposure to potentially hazardous levels of IPA in the air occurred at separate workplaces in the state. One involved presaturated wipes (70% IPA), while the other involved over-the-counter rubbing alcohol (70% IPA) and presaturated wipes (55% IPA). In both cases, ventilation was poor and several workers were exposed to IPA levels in the air that were higher than the 15-minute short-term exposure limit.

 

Occasional, brief use of IPA products usually isn’t a concern, Washington L&I says, but prolonged use and exposure – especially in enclosed areas – can create risks for workers. Employers can reduce the risk by:

  • Establishing a written hazard communication program that addresses chemical exposures.
  • Measuring personal exposures to ensure they’re below regulated limits.
  • Training workers to identify hazards associated with IPA use.
  • Providing personal protective equipment such as goggles, faceshields, appropriate respirators and emergency eyewash stations.
  • Posting warning signs around equipment and/or entrances where overexposures could occur.

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