Thursday, September 29, 2022

What Is Biological Monitoring In The Workplace

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When Should Biological Monitoring Be Used

Stages of labor – physiology

You should look at implementing biological monitoring in your workplace:

  • If chemicals in your workplace can be significantly absorbed through the skin
  • Where your control measures rely on the use of PPE, such as gloves and masks
  • If an employee is exposed to hazardous chemicals during their day-to-day work activities

Heres an example. If you work in the motor vehicle repair industry and these things happen in your body shop, you need biological monitoring:

  • Painters not wearing an air-fed mask or visor
  • Painters not wearing the correct air-fed masks or visors
  • Painters lifting visors to take a closer look at the job
  • Painters spraying above head height
  • Non-observance of the correct clearance time in spray booths
  • Non-protected personnel entering spray areas to speak to painters during spraying

Is Isocyanate Exposure Testing A Legal Requirement

Its an employers legal responsibility under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 to ensure that their employees exposure to hazardous substances and chemicals is either prevented or, if it cant be prevented, correctly controlled. This includes isocyanates.

Biological monitoring is an extremely effective way of testing for isocyanates, by making sure that the PPE and other control measures identified by your risk assessments are doing their job.

How Can The Amount Of Chemicals Absorbed Into The Body Be Measured

Biological monitoring can be used to indicate how much of a chemical has entered the body. It involves measuring the chemical the workers are exposed to at work in a sample of breath, urine or blood. The sample used depends on how the chemical is processed by the body. Biological monitoring is often used together with air monitoring.

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How Can The Amount Of Chemicals Absorbed Into Your Body Be Measured

Biological monitoring can be used to indicate how much of a chemical has entered your body. It involves measuring the chemical you are exposed to at work in a sample of your breath, urine or blood. Which of these three samples is used depends on how the chemical you are exposed to is processed by your body. Biological monitoring is often used together with air monitoring.

Biological monitoring is especially useful when:

  • there is likely significant absorption through the skin and
  • control of your exposure depends on personal protective equipment and your employer needs to check it is protecting you.

What Does You Employer Have To Do

Biological Hazard Testing

Many jobs involve using chemicals which can harm your health if they are not properly handled. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1994 your employer has to look for the risks to your health from chemicals in the workplace. Your employer must make sure that your exposure to chemicals is either prevented, or properly controlled. To do this he or she may need to measure your amount of chemical exposure.

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What Does Your Employer Have To Do

Many jobs involve using chemicals which can harm your health if they are not properly handled. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1994 your employer has to look for the risks to your health from chemicals in the workplace. Your employer must make sure that your exposure to chemicals is either prevented, or properly controlled. To do this he or she may need to measure your amount of chemical exposure.

What Is Biological Monitoring

Biological monitoring is the physical assessment part of a health surveillance program.

It refers to the physiological testing for the presence of a hazardous chemical or substance, its by-products or a biochemical change in a persons body .

This determines how much chemical has entered the body following exposure. For example:

  • lead is often measured in blood
  • mercury can be measured from a urine sample
  • cadmium exposure has been tested from hair and fingernails
  • alcohol can be detected in exhaled breath.

In the mining industry, the metals arsenic, mercury, lead, thallium and vanadium are either mined or used as a reagent during processing and in the laboratory.

Biological monitoring is the most convenient way to determine occupational exposure to these metals.

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Why Should You Take Part In A Biological Monitoring Programme

You do not have to take part in a biological monitoring programme*. However, taking part is in your interests because it shows you how much of the chemical you work with has been absorbed by your body.

If your result is high it does not necessarily mean that you will become ill, but it does indicate that your exposure may not be properly controlled. Under these circumstances your employer will probably need to look at how the chemical is being handled to see how exposure can be reduced. To help assess the results from biological monitoring, we publish Biological Monitoring Guidance Values for some substances in the publication EH40 Occupational exposure limits . * Under some circumstances, where your employer is required under health and safety law to carry out biological monitoring, there is an obligation on you to co-operate. In particular, if you work with lead your participation is required by the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 1980 .

How Should Your Rights As An Individual Be Protected

Nature of Science

If you decide to take part in a biological monitoring programme your employer needs to obtain your agreement before you provide a sample. We recommend that this is done using a consent form. The consent form is an agreement between you and your employer to ensure that:

  • you understand what the test results mean and what action might be taken on the basis of them
  • you can decide who has access to your result
  • you can decide, for example, whether people see your individual result or whether your result is anonymous and pooled with other people’s results
  • the sample you provide will only be analysed for the chemical that you are exposed to at work
  • the result of the test will not affect your conditions of employment.

We recommend that your employer involves an occupational doctor in the biological monitoring programme. As well as filling out the consent form you may also wish to discuss with an occupational doctor any risks that are associated with providing the sample, and any concerns over the interpretation of your results.

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Is Biological Monitoring A Legal Requirement

Biological monitoring helps you as an employer to test your companys control measures should your employees be working with hazardous substances.

It can be a good way to make sure youre fully complying with your legal Health & Safety responsibilities. For example, biological monitoring can help you comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 by contributing to exposure monitoring, health risk assessments and the evaluation of control measures. Its useful where:

  • theres likely to be significant skin absorption
  • theres likely to be significant uptake following ingestion of the chemical
  • control of uptake depends on personal protective equipment .

Information And Consultation Of Workers

According to Directive 98/24/EC, workers have a privileged right to be informed and know of the results of any biological monitoring in the framework of health surveillance . The individual worker shall, at his request, have access to the health and exposure records relating to him personally. Where, as a result of health surveillance:

  • a worker is found to have an identifiable disease or adverse health effect which is considered by a doctor or occupational health-care professional to be the result of exposure at work to a hazardous chemical agent, or
  • a binding biological limit value is found to have been exceeded,

the worker shall be informed by the doctor or other suitably qualified person of the result which relates to him personally, including information and advice regarding any health surveillance which he should undergo following the end of the exposure.

Stricter requirements apply, especially as regards record-keeping and information of workers, when carcinogens or mutagens´ exposure occur, laid out in Directive 2004/36/EC . For example, all cases of occupational cancers shall be notified to the competent authority. Records shall be kept for at least 40 years following the end of exposure.

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How Can Chemicals Enter The Body

The main routes of exposure are:

If the workers are exposed to chemicals in their daily work, the most common way of finding out how much they are exposed to is to measure the amount of the chemical present in the air they breathe. However, this does not indicate how much of the chemical has actually entered the body. In particular, it does not measure how much has entered the body through the skin or by swallowing. This is why biological monitoring is recommended for certain chemicals.

How Can Chemicals Enter Your Body

Biological Monitoring

The main ways that chemicals can enter your body are:

If you are exposed to chemicals in the job you do, the most common way of finding out how much you are exposed to is to measure how much of the chemical is present in the air you breathe in. However, this does not tell you how much of the chemical has actually entered your body. In particular, it does not measure how much has entered your body through the skin or by swallowing. This is why we sometimes recommend biological monitoring for certain chemicals.

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Do You Need Support With Coshh

It is hoped that this article goes some way to providing a brief overview of biological monitoring. If you wish to know more on this subject or need support with your COSHH assessments, exposure monitoring or the testing of your LEV systems, RPE Fit Testing then please feel free to get in touch with us through social media or our website , by email at or simply give us a call on 01709 931299.

Visit our Services Page Here:

Links For Further Reading

EU-OSHA European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Dangerous substances e-tool. Available at:

Aitio, A., Bernard, A., Fowler, B. A. & Nordberg, G. F., Handbook on the toxicology of metals, Academic Press, Burlington, 2011, pp. 65-77. Partly available at:

APIS Air Pollution Information System . Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

BAuA Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin . Biomonitoring. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

Biomarkers and Risk Assessment: Concepts and Principles , “”Environmental Health Criteria”” 155, Report, Geneva, 1993. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

Biomarkers In Risk Assessment: Validity and Validation . Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

Bolt, H. M. & Thier, R., ‘Biological monitoring and Biological Limit Values : The strategy of the European Union’, Toxicology Letters 162, 2006, pp. 119-124.

Consortium to Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale . Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

Eurotox Federation of European Toxicologists & European Societies of Toxicology . Carcinogenesis Speciality Section. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

HPM4EU- platform. Retrieved 12 March 2020 from

HSE, Biological monitoring in the workplace. Available at:

SCOEL Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits . Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

SCOEL Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits, Explanation of Key Terms, 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from:

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What Is Biological Monitoring Information For Managers

Biological Monitoring is the measurement and assessment of workplace agents or their metabolites either in tissues, secreta, excreta, expired air or any combination of these to evaluate exposure and health risk compared to an appropriate reference.

Many jobs involve the use of chemicals which can harm workers health if they are not properly handled. Under the Regulations for Hazardous Chemical Substances 1995, under section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have to look for the risks to health from chemicals in the workplace, listed in Table III. They must ensure that the exposure to chemicals is either eliminated or prevented, or properly controlled. To do this the employer needs to measure the amount of chemicals to which the workers are exposed.

Interpretation Of Biomonitoring Results

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Figure 4: Interpretation of biomonitoring results at the group and at the individual levels

Biomarker concentration is compared to appropriate reference values, but the user should be aware of all the uncertainty of the results and how the reference is defined. A biomarker above the reference value does not mean disease or hazard but potentially higher exposure than the reference population. This, however, may not necessarily mean increased health risk, but only if confirmed with repeated measurements and analysis of circumstances . Collective biomarker data should be used only for the assessment of exposure at group level while individual data are appropriate for drawing conclusions on personal exposure.

Dose-response relationships of effects can be compared to the cumulated frequency distribution of the biomarker . The probability to observe a certain effect is achieved by projecting 100% of the cumulated frequency distribution to intersect the dose-response curves : 80% for blue effect, 35% for orange effect, and 0% for red effect. Using an individual result , the probabilities can be calculated for a single worker.

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How Should I Introduce Biological Monitoring And Isocyanate Exposure Testing Into My Workplace

All employees who come into contact with isocyanates should undergo annual biological monitoring for isocyanates in their urine as part of their regular health screening. This should be in line with your business annual health surveillance programme, such as spirometry testing.

Both your air monitoring and health surveillance results should be kept and used to update COSHH Assessments.

The Benefits Of Biological Monitoring

The British Occupational Hygiene Society describes biological monitoring or biological testing as a way in which we can determine how much of a particular contaminant has been taken up by the body from various routes of entry, including inhalation.

This approach can be highly advantageous as it not only provides additional information where there is a respiratory hazard, but it can be used where the main route of exposure isn’t inhalation. Further benefits of utilising this method of sampling are:

  • It can highlight deficiencies in the wearing of personal protective equipment .

  • It provides evidence as part of a medical assessment.

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The Biological Monitoring Process With Elas Occupational Health

Its as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  • We supply you with biological monitoring kits for your employees, made up of a urine pot.
  • All they need to do is provide a urine sample and send it off to our approved laboratory for testing in the pre-paid pack. All company details are kept completely anonymous.
  • If the employees test results show that their levels are above any UK guidance values, then we advise a retest to help validate the accuracy of the results.
  • Well then work with them to re-evaluate the control methods that are in currently in place.
  • Simple, easy and cost-effective!

    Revisedamendments From Version 1

    Chemical &  biological hazard monitoring at work

    The articles main content has not been revised or modified in any way. However, the last paragraph in the conclusion section of the article has been revised to include in the limitations of the study the points pointed out by the reviewers, which the researchers had previously omitted to address. It has also been indicated in this same paragraph that the study will be used as a basis upon which further research to address those concerns raised by reviewers will be undertaken. The e-mail address of the corresponding author has also been updated.

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    Setting Of Biological Limit Values

    The International Commission on Occupational Health defined Biological Limit Value as the biomarker level that can be directly associated with a biological effect or disease. The European Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits defined: A Biological Limit Value is a reference value for the evaluation of potential health risk in the practice of occupational health. Exposure concentrations equivalent to the BLV generally do not affect the health of the employee adversely, when they are attained regularly under workplace conditions , except in cases of hypersensitivity. It is presented as the concentration in the appropriate biological medium of the relevant agent, its metabolite, or indicator of effect..The SCOEL Biological Limit Value can be either health-based or exposure-based.

    BLV are comparable to Biological Exposure Indices in the US and Biological Tolerance Values in Germany. BAT values are based either on the relationship between external exposure and internal dose, or between the internal dose and the resulting effect of the substance, using the average of internal dose. Differences between BLV and BAT disappeared following the harmonisation of definitions. Initially BATs used to be maximum permissible values.

    How Does The Biological Monitoring Process Work

    With ELAS OH, biological monitoring is straightforward and easy.

    Once the individuals for testing have been identified, your team will be supplied with biological monitoring kits made up of a urine pot, consent form, and prepaid return envelopes to the lab. Your employee will simply need to provide their sample in line with the clear instructions provided. All your company details are kept anonymous during this process.

    Once the samples have been processed, the results will be interpreted and a report will be issued. If the results are above any UK guidance values, a re-test will be recommended.

    If there is any exposure indicated in the results, youll need to review the results and check that the individuals are following the control measures in place or redo your risk assessments to see if you need to improve the control measures you have in place.

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    Safeopedia Explains Biological Monitoring

    Biomonitoring samples provide a more comprehensive and individualized measure of a workers contact with chemical substances than environmental exposure monitoring does. Biological monitoring may also include effect-focused monitoring, which measures the impact that exposure to a chemical or to multiple chemicals is having on workers.

    Biological monitoring is usually undertaken in the workplace as part of a broader medical surveillance program, either due to an ongoing workplace risk or due to an accidental exposure incident. It is used as an effective way to measure a workers total uptake of a given chemical from all sources of contact .

    Higher than expected levels of a chemical may indicate that existing exposure measures are inaccurate and that an unaccounted for source of exposure exists in the workplace. Similarly, biomonitoring that demonstrates an unexpected health impact due to chemical exposure may show an individual worker’s susceptibility to the chemical, or it could indicate that substances present in the workplace have a synergistic effect, thus posing a greater hazard when workers are exposed to them in combination.

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