Hazmat Physical

Hazmat Physical Specialist
Working with hazardous materials can affect employees’ health. If you’re working regularly with materials classed as hazardous, you may be subject to permissible exposure limits (PEL), and you may be at an increased risk for some medical conditions. Dr. F. Mark Paz and the team at Occupational Medicine of the Rockies in Golden, Colorado, perform hazmat physicals. These physicals are like medical surveillance of your exposure to risks. Contact the practice to make an appointment today.

Hazmat Physical Q & A

Occupational Medicine of the Rockies

What are hazardous materials (hazmat)?

Any substance that could adversely affect your health if you’re exposed to it is a hazardous material. It doesn’t matter if it’s biological or chemical, it’s the potential for harm that defines the level of hazard. Many substances are defined as hazardous by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which assigns PELs to each substance. OSHA also defines safe handling practices, including personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for safe handling.

There are six categories for hazardous substances. These include:

  • Carcinogens: substances that increase cancer risks
  • Corrosives: direct contact can damage or destroy body tissue
  • Irritants: direct contact causes inflammation of body tissue
  • Sensitizers: causes reactions for a substantial portion of the population when exposed
  • Target organ effects: causes organ-specific damage, such as to the lungs, kidney, liver, nervous system, or bone marrow
  • Toxic and highly toxic: substances that cause death when exposure meets a set dosage and duration

How is hazmat exposure handled in the workplace?

Employers who have staff working around hazardous materials must identify these materials and assure that PELs aren’t exceeded. Training for safe handling must be provided, including work procedures and proper use of PPE.

When PELs are exceeded for 30 days or more per year, employees may be required to undergo annual hazmat physicals to determine that controls including PPE are effective and no negative health effects have occurred.

What can I expect during a hazmat physical?

A hazmat physical is a baseline exam that’s performed before you work with hazmats. It assesses your current health and identifies any pre-existing conditions that could be aggravated by hazmat exposure.

Both annual and baseline physical exams include:

  • Your health history
  • Your work history of exposure to hazardous materials
  • A typical physical exam, including vital signs, observation, reflexes, tapping of the abdomen, etc.
  • Blood and urine testing for organ function and/or heavy metal exposure
  • Chest X-rays
  • EKG
  • Hearing test
  • Hepatitis B antibody testing, vaccination
  • Spirometry, or lung capacity testing

Employers typically provide your job description, current and projected hazmat exposure levels, a list of PPE currently used, and prior medical evaluations, if available.

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