Factors of workplace environment

During work, employees may be exposed to adverse effects of various kinds such as high noise levels, unhealthy temperatures, electromagnetic fields and more. The main normative document providing information on the requirements and possibilities for limiting the harmful factors is Ordinance № 7 on minimum health and safety of the workplace and the use of work equipment, 1999. In addition to this regulation, where applicable, there are additional regulations determining the permissible and healthy standards for work.

We can divide the factors into several groups: physical factors, microclimate factors, chemical factors, biological factors, physiological factors and mental factors.

The most common measurements required for the factors in question are: measurements of light, microclimate, noise, vibration and periodic checks of: Impedance of “Phase-protective conductor” circuit, earthing system and lightning protection system.

The measurements are performed by units / specialists authorized by the Executive Agency "Bulgarian Accreditation Service".

Read more about the various factors, the possible risks they pose, as well as possible preventive measures here:

MECHANICAL FACTORS – cause injuries due to mechanical action of machines, equipment, tools and vehicles. The harmful effects they can cause are crushing, gripping, hitting, wrapping, dragging, abrasion, pricking, cutting, burying, cutting, slipping. Preventive measures that can be taken are to assess these factors and take action to limit the risks they pose by: drawing up safety instructions, placing safety devices and warning signs (collective protective equipment), personal protective equipment.

ACOUSTIC FACTORS – are sources of noise made usually by machines, transport or crowded places. Adverse effects that may result are damage to the hearing and / or vestibular system. Part of the preventive measures are the use of personal protective equipment, the design of silencers, as well as the use of sound-absorbing and sound-insulating building materials at the design stage of the premises, as well as periodic inspections to determine whether the statutory standards are met. The minimum requirements for ensuring the health and safety of workers at risks related to noise exposure are determined by Ordinance No 6 dated 15.08.2005 on minimum requirements for provision of health and safety of workers against risks involving noise exposure. Information on the periodicity of measurements is given in Ordinance № 7 on minimum health and safety of the workplace and the use of work equipment, 1999.

ELECTRICAL FACTORS – include damage from electric current in direct contact or in operation. The impact is caused by touching or dangerously approaching live parts or parts that are not normally live but are damaged by insulation or other reasons. Adverse effects can cause damage (burns) or death from electric shock. As preventive measures we can consider again the availability of instructions for safe operation of electrical machinery or equipment, the availability of appropriate training for employees (qualification group on electrical safety), the use of only working appliances and equipment, keeping a diary to check portable electrical appliances, earthing, zeroing and periodic control of these measures, as well as the use of personal protective equipment. Periodic inspections related to electrical safety concern the measurements of: impedance of “Phase-protective conductor” circuit, earthing system and lightning protection system.

OPTICAL FACTORS- Poor lighting leads to visual, nervous and general fatigue, as well as damage to vision. Natural lighting is preferred to be provided in the work premises. Combined lighting is implemented in the work premises to provide sufficient artificial lighting. Local lighting is applied to working machines. Emergency lighting is applied at workplaces where, in the event of an accident in the lighting system, workers are at risk of accidents. With regard to lighting, Ordinance № 49 of 10.08.1976 for artificial lighting in buildings. It determines the norms for designing artificial lighting, while the periodicity of measurements is determined by Art. 381 of Ordinance No. 16-116 from 8 February 2008 for technical exploitation of the energy- equipment.

RADIATION FACTORS- damages inflicted by infrared (IR), ultraviolet (UV) or laser radiation (LR) on the health and safety of workers. Infrared radiation has a thermal effect and causes acute and chronic damage, mainly associated with a violation of thermoregulation. Ultraviolet radiation causes retinal burns and vision damage, as well as burns and skin damage. Laser radiation causes damage to vision, skin and the cardiovascular system. To limit the harmful effects of electric magnetic fields and radiation in the workplace, personal and collective protective equipment is necessary, as well as medical monitoring of workers in such an environment. Normative document in relation to this factor is Ordinance No 5 dated 11.06.2010 on minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to risks arising from physical agents (artificial optical radiation).

IONIZING FACTORS – natural and artificial radiation. It leads to cancer, intergenerational mutations and death. Protection against ionizing radiation includes: remote control devices, sealing and enclosing devices, ventilation, protective coatings, safety and alarm signs, personal protective equipment. Health norms and requirements for work in an environment of ionizing radiation are specified in Regulation No.29 of 16 September 2005 on the health norms and requirements in case of work in ionizing radiation environment.

NON-IONIZING FACTORS - electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic radiation with adverse effects on health. They cause diseases of the circulatory system (hypertension), damage to the eyes and the central and autonomic nervous system. Protection against non-ionizing radiation is provided by grounding and electrostatic fields.

VIBRATION FACTORS - vibrations cause serious damage to the health and safety of workers. Excavators, crane operators, truck drivers, etc are endangered as the vibrations cause damage to the musculoskeletal system. Precautions include mainly technical solutions to limit the level of vibration: installation of equipment on a special foundation, vibration damping handles and other constructive solutions that ensure compliance with the standards related to vibration exposure. The current normative document in relation to this factor is Ordinance No 3 dated 5.05.2005 on minimum requirements for provision of health and safety of workers against risks connected to vibration exposure.

RELATIVE HUMIDITY – both high and low humidity lead to discomfort and impair the thermoregulation of the human body. Dry cold is better tolerated by the human body. The standards for the permissible values of relative humidity are specified in the standards.

AIR TEMPERATURE - working while exposed to high temperature (metallurgy, ore mining, finishing production, glass industry, sugar production, etc.) can lead to various disorders and changes in the body such as changes in: skin and body temperature; water - salt balance of the body; cardiovascular; digestive, excretory; and central nervous systems. Extremely unfavorable conditions can result in heat stroke. Exposed to low temperatures and in cooling conditions are workers that work in forestry and agriculture, construction, transport, canning industry and others. Unpleasant cold load leads to circulatory disorders, frostbite of the limbs, permanent disorders and damage to internal organs, slowing down the reaction and coordination of movements. Some of the protective measures that can be taken are: construction of cabins, hot air showers, provision of special work clothes, etc. When working in rooms where negative temperatures are technologically maintained, special work clothes are provided for the workers and a special mode of work is introduced. When working outdoors, during the cold period, heated rooms or vans are provided, and when working outdoors at a temperature higher than 28 degrees Celsius, technical and organizational decisions are made as appropriate.

THE SPEED OF AIRFLOW is also related to temperature. It determines the movement of air layers in both macroclimatic and microclimatic conditions. The optimal norms for air speed are according to the season of the year and the category of work. The current ordinance regarding this factor is Ordinance Nº RD-07-3 of 18 July 2014 on the minimum requirements regarding microclimate at the workplace.

NON-TOXIC CHEMICAL FACTORS - include the presence of substances such as dust, asbestos and allergens (antibiotics, yeast, mold), which can cause various lung diseases - bronchitis, asthma, cancer.

TOXIC / poisons /- chemical substances that under production conditions can affect the human body, cause changes in its physiological balance and cause diseases. Most often, toxic substances are deposited in the bones, liver, kidneys, brain and others. According to the requirements of the regulations, every machine that generates dust must be equipped with a vacuum cleaner for local extraction of dust. Depending on the degree of harmfulness of the substances, continuous or periodic control of their content in the air is carried out. In case of continuous control, a signal is provided for the presence of a concentration of the substances above the permissible one. For such premises is provided forced ventilation - general and local.

BIOLOGICAL FACTORS -"Biological agents" are microorganisms, including those that are genetically modified, cell cultures and human endoparasites that can provoke infection, allergy or toxicity. Workers in food production enterprises, agriculture, work with animals and / or products of animal origin, health and medical establishments, veterinary and diagnostic laboratories, waste treatment, wastewater treatment plants are endangered. Some of the protective measures are to avoid or minimize contamination of the workplace with biological agents, as well as the provision of collective means of protection and / or personal protective equipment;

PHYSIOLOGICAL FACTORS - mainly related to the physical overload of the human body or its individual parts, especially its musculoskeletal system. Part of the protective measures are the use of mechanized means for loading and unloading activities: trolleys, pallet trucks, hoists, electric and forklifts, cranes, as well as compliance with the norms for manual work with weights, defined in Ordinance № 16 of 31 May 1999 on physiological norms and rules for manual work with heavy materials.

PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS- factors that affect the psyche of the worker and cause him permanent psychological discomfort, which in turn due to the specifics of the human body causes various diseases. Psychological harmful factors can affect the psyche of the worker not only at work but also outside of it.

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