Epoxies are not difficult to use. However, they still require some attention in the workplace. Repeated unprotected contact with skin, can trigger a body reaction called “sensitisation” which shows similar symptoms as an allergic reaction.
Sensitisation can only occur with uncured resins, since cured systems are harmless due to the absence of reactive epoxy groups. To avoid this, it is very important to wear protective equipment at all times when working with reactive epoxy resins. A proper workplace hygiene is the best measure to prevent allergies.
Some Safe Handling Initiatives in the EU
Epoxy resins are specially designed performance materials which, like every product used in high performance applications, must be handled with the necessary care. As much as a chirurgical scalpel is indispensable for a successful surgery, handling it sensibly from the first use is highly important. User education and training right from the very start is thus key to a successful and safe handling of epoxy resins. Therefore, providing comprehensive information during the training phase is desirable for those jobs that may possibly have to handle epoxy resins. This way it is ensured that the applicant is aware of the correct handling procedures for epoxy resins and does stringently adhere to the necessary protection measures.
Denmark has a mandatory training scheme for people working with epoxy resins since 1981. An analysis of patch test data from the Danish Contact Dermatitis Group showed that, despite such preventive measures, problems concerning sensitisation to epoxy remain. Efforts to ensure that all protective equipment is worn should continue.
* DGUV: Deutsche Gesetzliche UnfallVersicherung
The German Mandatory Workers Insurance (DGUV*) and the University of Osnabrück developed training materials that can support teachers, especially at professional schools in this task. The INQA (Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit) Project, has been active since 2007. The goal is to reduce the number of cases of sensitisation in the workplace related to the handling of epoxy resins.
Other initiatives include successful and productive cooperation between all stakeholders (Insurance providers, German Social Accident Insurance Institutions (BG), industry, IVDK), as well as cooperation with neighbouring countries like Austria, Switzerland or the Netherlands.
They can be found under following links (German only):
Similarly, the project EpoxSafe@School by the University of Osnabrück and the German Institute for Health Research and Education (ITUC) – Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory develop trainings to prevent sensitisation. Trainings start with apprentices at school and move on to the teachers.