The team at Chemscape offers professional development of Exposure Control Plans based on your businesses’ unique industry requirements, including benzene exposure control plans (ECPs) that have been developed thorough Chemical Hazard Assessment and Management Program (CHAMP) tool and industrial hygiene services. A benzene ECP is essential for identifying and mitigating the risks of benzene exposure in any facility that handles this chemical.

What Is Benzene?

Benzene is a colourless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air.  Benzene is found in oil-based drilling fluids and is a hazardous part of gasoline. It's used to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

What Is a Benzene Exposure Control Plan and Why Is It Important?

A benzene exposure control plan is a document that’s part of an organization’s overall chemical safety management program. It details the exposure hazards of benzene that workers may encounter while performing their duties and outlines the available protective measures. Regulatory bodies such as WorkSafeBC in British Columbia require employers to develop ECPs.

How Are Workers Exposed to Benzene?

Benzene exposure occurs primarily through its presence in hydrocarbon products like refined gasoline and diesel. Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions. Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air.

The benzene in indoor air comes from products typically stored in an attached garage: gasoline-powered equipment and vehicles, glues and paint thinners, furniture wax. The air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations can contain higher levels of benzene than in other areas. Leakage from underground storage tanks or from hazardous waste sites containing benzene can contaminate well water. People working in industries that make or use benzene may be exposed to the highest levels.

What are the health concerns for benzene exposure in workers?

The main concern with benzene exposure is long-term exposure and its effect on the blood. Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in the red blood cells, leading to anemia. This can cause excessive bleeding and affect the immune system. Long-term exposure by inhalation of benzene can cause leukemia, a blood related cancer in human. There is also some research that shows evidence of reproductive effects on female reproductive organs.

Products That Contain Benzene

Common products that contain benzene include the following:

  • Refined gasoline 

  • Diesel 

  • Condensate, sweet and sour 

  • Kerosene

Industries that may experience Benzene exposure

Industries that make or use benzene will likely have the highest exposure levels to benzene. These industries include upstream oil and gas, petroleum refining, petrochemicals, coal and chemical manufacturing, rubber tire manufacturing, storage and transport of petroleum products with benzene. Other industries which may experience exposure include steel workers, printers, rubber workers, lab technicians. fire fighters and gas station employees.

Benzene Routes of Exposure and Short-Term Heath Effects

Acute exposure to benzene will have the following health effects depending on the route of exposure:

Skin contact

Benzene causes moderate to severe skin irritation and can be absorbed through the skin. 

Eye contact

Benzene is an eye irritant.

Inhalation

Inhaling benzene can irritate breathing passages and damage the nervous system, resulting in loss of consciousness in cases of severe exposure. Benzene is harmful if swallowed. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Aspiration hazard if swallowed - can enter lungs and cause damage.

Worker Responsibilities

Workers should be thoroughly trained when working with substances that may contain benzene. Understanding the health and physical hazards is critical to building awareness and taking precautions to stay safe. Workers should review safe work procedures. Workers need PPE that is properly fitted and in good working conditions. Workers need to understand emergency procedures for first aid, spills and fire.  Decontamination procedures should be reviewed. Workers should know where a SDS is located if more information is required.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers should provide training and education on working with Benzene. Employers are required to perform hazard assessments and determine the risk of exposure for employees. Industrial hygiene monitoring may be required as well as record keeping. Occupational health monitoring and records may be needed too.

Trusted Benzene Control Plans Approved by WorkSafeBC

Chemscape Safety Technologies develops chemical management solutions that are unique to your business and daily operations while meeting WorkSafeBC standards and regulations. We go the extra mile to consider all working elements when developing your ECP. Contact our team of experienced occupational health and safety professionals today to learn more about developing a benzene ECP for your business.