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Vinyl chloride is a manufactured colorless gas with a mild, sweet odor. It is extremely flammable at normal temperatures and will ignite spontaneously in air. The substance is also easily ignited by heat, sparks, or flames; forms explosive mixtures with air; and may polymerize explosively when heated or involved in a fire.
Vinyl chloride also results from the breakdown of other substances, such as trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene. Vinyl chloride is also known as chloroethene, chloroethylene, and ethylene monochloride.
Most of the vinyl chloride produced in the United States is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used to manufacture a variety of plastic and vinyl products including pipes, wire and cable coatings, packaging materials, furniture and automobile upholstery, wall coverings, housewares, and automotive parts.
Exposure to vinyl chloride occurs mainly in the workplace through inhalation or ingestion. Exposure by inhalation of vinyl chloride is a concern for persons employed in vinyl chloride manufacturing or processing; for people living in communities where vinyl chloride is located; and for individuals living near hazardous waste disposal sites. Exposure to vinyl chloride can also occur by ingestion of food or water containing this substance.
Breathing high levels of vinyl chloride for short periods of time can cause dizziness, sleepiness, unconsciousness, and at extremely high levels can cause death. Breathing vinyl chloride for long periods of time can result in permanent liver damage, immune reactions, nerve damage, and liver cancer.
Dermal exposure to vinyl chloride causes skin burns by rapid evaporation and consequent freezing. Short-term exposure to vinyl chloride includes central nervous system effects such as dizziness, headaches, and giddiness. Long-term exposure through inhalation and oral exposure may result in liver damage. Exposure through inhalation has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer of the liver, brain, lung, and digestive tract.
OSHA includes requirements for the control of employee exposure to vinyl chloride (chloroethene), Chemical Abstracts Service Registry No. 75014. It applies to the manufacture, reaction, packaging, repackaging, storage, handling or use of vinyl chloride or polyvinyl chloride, but does not apply to the handling or use of fabricated products made of polyvinyl chloride. The regulation also applies to the transportation of vinyl chloride or polyvinyl chloride except to the extent that the Department of Transportation may regulate the hazards covered by 1910.1017.
- 29 CFR 1910.1017 — Vinyl chloride
- Action level: A concentration of vinyl chloride of 0.5 parts per million (ppm) averaged over an 8-hour work day.
- Authorized person: Any person specifically authorized by the employer whose duties require him to enter a regulated area or any person entering such an area as a designated representative of employees for the purpose of exercising an opportunity to observe monitoring and measuring procedures.
- Fabricated product: A product made wholly or partly from polyvinyl chloride, and which does not require further processing at temperatures, and for times, sufficient to cause mass melting of the polyvinyl chloride resulting in the release of vinyl chloride.
- Hazardous operation: Any operation, procedure, or activity where a release of either vinyl chloride liquid or gas might be expected as a consequence of the operation or because of an accident in the operation, which would result in an employee exposure in excess of the permissible exposure limit.
- Polyvinyl chloride: Polyvinyl chloride homo-polymer or co-polymer before such is converted to a fabricated product.
- Vinyl chloride: Vinyl chloride monomer.
Summary of requirements
Protection. OSHA has set the maximum allowable level of vinyl chloride in workroom air during an 8-hour workday in a 40-hour workweek at 1 part vinyl chloride per million parts of air (1 ppm).
To achieve compliance with 1910.1017, administrative or engineering controls must first be determined and implemented whenever feasible. When these controls are not feasible to achieve full compliance, protective equipment or any other protective measures must be used to keep the exposure of employees to air contaminants within the limits prescribed in the regulation. Any equipment and/or technical measures used for this purpose must be approved for each particular use by a competent industrial hygienist or other technically qualified person. 1910.1017(f) Vinyl Chloride Checklist
- A written compliance program is in place.
- Employees are aware of the hazards involved with vinyl chloride.
- A training program has been instituted for all employees who are subject to exposure to vinyl chloride.
- Employee exposure to vinyl chloride is monitored and kept within acceptable levels.
- Employees are provided with proper protective equipment.
- Engineering and work practice controls are used to reduce exposures to a permissible level.
- Proper precautions are taken when handling vinyl chloride.
- Caution labels and signs are used to warn of vinyl chloride.
- A regulated area has been established, and marked, where vinyl chloride is manufactured, processed, used, repackaged, released, handled, or stored.
- Employees who work with vinyl chloride wash their hands after assigned tasks are completed and before engaging in other activities.
- Vinyl chloride is stored and used appropriately.
- Containers used to store vinyl chloride are appropriately marked.
- All employees who work with vinyl chloride have had an initial medical examination.
- A medical surveillance program is in place for employees who become exposed to vinyl chloride.
- Appropriate records are maintained (exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, etc.).
- Employees are instructed in proper first aid and other emergency procedures.
- Emergency procedures are in place for dealing with emergency situations involving vinyl chloride.
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['Toxic and Hazardous Substances - OSHA']
['Toxic and Hazardous Substances - OSHA']
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