Machine-made mineral fibres (MMMF), sometimes called man-made mineral fibres or synthetic mineral fibres includes glass fibre, stone and slag wool, refractory ceramic fibres, nanofibres, essentially any type of fibre produced by man. These differ from naturally occurring fibres like asbestos but were developed for similar purposes such as thermal and acoustic insulation and reinforcement. MMMF’s can be a health hazard to people working with them, from manufacture to installation and removal.
The long-term health effects caused by exposure to asbestos is well understood and widely recognised. The lesser-known MMMF’s have health effects of their own such as coughing, sore throat, skin and eye irritation although unlike asbestos, these tend to be short-term and reversible. MMMF’s might also be of concern when fibre dimensions are of a similar (needle-like) shape to asbestos fibres as this is one of the physical properties that makes asbestos hazardous.
MMMF’s can be especially unpleasant to workers involved in installation, construction and removal as these activities can generate high fibre levels. These effects can be worsened in confined workspaces and during long shifts or without adequate controls in place. Is the worker wearing suitable PPE, are they taking regular breaks etc?
To keep workers safe and healthy, PCBU’s should implement controls to reduce exposure to MMMF’s coupled with exposure monitoring from independent bodies to assess the extent of fibre release in the workspace. This includes all work types from manufacture to installation, maintenance, repair and removal work. Here at Chemsafety, we can assist with these needs.