R144 Recommendation concerning Protection against Hazards of Poisoning Arising from Benzene
Geneva, 23 giugno 1971
The General Conference of the International Labour Organisation,
Having been convened at Geneva by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office, and having met in its Fifty-sixth Session on 2 June 1971, and
Having adopted the Benzene Convention, 1971, and
Having decided upon the adoption of certain proposals with regard to protection against hazards arising from benzene, which is the sixth item on the agenda of the session, and
Having determined that these proposals shall take the form of a Recommendation,
adopts this twenty-third day of June of the year one thousand nine hundred seventy-one, the following Recommendation, which may be cited as the Benzene Recommendation, 1971:
1. This Recommendation applies to all activities involving exposure of workers to:
(a) the aromatic hydrocarbon benzene C6H6, hereinafter referred to as benzene;
(b) products the benzene content of which exceeds 1 per cent by volume, hereinafter referred to as products containing benzene; the benzene content should be determined by analytical methods recommended by the competent international organisations.
2. Notwithstanding the provisions of Paragraph 1 of this Recommendation, the benzene content of products not covered by clause (b) of that Paragraph should be progressively reduced to as low as practicable where this is necessary for the protection of the health of workers.
II. Restrictions on the Use of Benzene
(1) Whenever harmless or less harmful substitute products are available they should be used instead of benzene or products containing benzene.
(2) Subparagraph (1) of this Paragraph does not apply to:
(a) the production of benzene;
(b) the use of benzene for chemical synthesis;
(c) the use of benzene in motor fuel;
(d) analytical or research work carried out in laboratories.
(1) The use of benzene and of products containing benzene should be prohibited in certain work processes to be specified by national laws or regulations.
(2) This prohibition should at least include the use of benzene and of products containing benzene as a solvent or diluent, except where the process is carried out in an enclosed system or where there are other equally safe methods of work.
5. The sale of certain industrial products containing benzene (such as paints, varnishes, mastics, glues, adhesives, inks and various solutions), to be specified by national laws or regulations, should be prohibited in cases to be determined by the competent authority.
III. Technical Measures for the Prevention of Hazards; Occupational Hygiene
(1) Occupational hygiene and technical measures should be taken to ensure effective protection of workers exposed to benzene or to products containing benzene.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of Paragraph 1 of this Recommendation, such measures should also be taken where workers are exposed to products the benzene content of which is below 1 per cent by volume, if this is necessary to ensure that the concentration of benzene in the air remains below the maximum fixed by the competent authority.
(1) In premises where benzene or products containing benzene are manufactured, handled or used, all necessary measures should be taken to prevent the escape of benzene vapour into the air of places of employment.
(2) Where workers are exposed to benzene or to products containing benzene, the employer should ensure that the concentration of benzene in the air of the places of employment does not exceed a maximum which should be fixed by the competent authority at a level not exceeding a ceiling value of 25 parts per million (80 mg/m3).
(3) The maximum concentration referred to in subparagraph (2) of this Paragraph should be lowered as soon as possible if medical evidence shows this to be desirable.
(4) The competent authority should issue directions on carrying out the measurement of the concentration of benzene in the air of places of employment.
(1) Work processes involving the use of benzene or of products containing benzene should as far as practicable be carried out in an enclosed system.
(2) Where it is not practicable for the work processes to be carried out in an enclosed system, places of work in which benzene or products containing benzene are used should be equipped with effective means to ensure the removal of benzene vapour to the extent necessary for the protection of the health of the workers.
(3) Care should be taken to ensure that wastes containing liquid benzene or benzene vapour do not endanger the health of workers.
(1) Workers who may have skin contact with liquid benzene or liquid products containing benzene should be provided with adequate means of personal protection against the risk of absorbing benzene through the skin.
(2) Workers who for special reasons may be exposed to concentrations of benzene in the air of places of employment which exceed the maximum referred to in Paragraph 7, subparagraph (2), of this Recommendation should be provided with adequate means of personal protection against the risk of inhaling benzene vapour. The duration of exposure should be limited as far as possible.
10. Every worker exposed to benzene or to products containing benzene should wear appropriate work clothes.
11. The use of benzene or of products containing benzene by workers for cleaning their hands or their work clothes should be prohibited.
12. Food should not be introduced into or consumed in areas in which benzene or products containing benzene are manufactured, handled or used. Smoking should be prohibited in such areas.
13. In undertakings in which benzene or products containing benzene are manufactured, handled or used, all appropriate measures should be taken by the employer to have available for workers:
(a) sufficient and suitable washing facilities, in suitable places and properly maintained;
(b) suitable accommodation for taking meals, unless appropriate arrangements exist for the workers to take their meals elsewhere;
(c) changing rooms or other suitable facilities, where work clothing can be stored separately from the ordinary clothes of the workers.
(1) The means of personal protection referred to in Paragraph 9 of this Recommendation and the work clothes referred to in Paragraph 10 thereof should be supplied, cleaned and regularly maintained by the employer.
(2) The workers concerned should be required to use these means of personal protection and these work clothes, and to take care of them.
IV. Medical Measures
(1) Workers who are to be employed in work processes involving exposure to benzene or to products containing benzene should undergo:
(a) a thorough pre-employment medical examination for fitness for employment which shall include a blood-test;
(b) periodic re-examinations, which shall include biological tests including a blood-test, at intervals, of not more than one year, fixed by national laws or regulations.
(2) The competent authority in a country may, after consultation with the most representative organisations of employers and workers concerned, where such exist, permit exceptions from the provisions of subparagraph (1) of this Paragraph in respect of specified categories of workers.
16. On the occasion of the medical examinations the workers concerned should be given written instructions on protective measures against the health hazards of benzene.
17. The medical examinations provided for in Paragraph 15, subparagraph (1), of this Recommendation should be:
(a) carried out under the responsibility of a qualified physician, approved by the competent authority, and with the assistance, as appropriate, of a competent laboratory;
(b) certified in an appropriate manner.
18. These medical examinations should be carried out during working hours, and should not involve the workers in any expense.
19. Women medically certified as pregnant, and nursing mothers, should not be employed in work processes involving exposure to benzene or products containing benzene.
20. Young persons under 18 years of age should not be employed in work processes involving exposure to benzene or products containing benzene, except where they are undergoing education or training and are under adequate technical and medical supervision.
(1) The word "Benzene" and the necessary danger symbols should be clearly visible on any container holding benzene or products containing benzene.
(2) An indication of the percentage of benzene contained in the product in question should also be given.
(3) The danger symbols referred to in subparagraph (1) of this Paragraph should be internationally recognised.
22. Benzene and products containing benzene should not be brought into any place of employment except in containers which are of suitable material, adequate strength, and so designed and constructed as to prevent any leakage, or inadvertent escape of vapours.
VI. Measures of Education
23. Each Member should take appropriate steps to provide that any worker exposed to benzene or products containing benzene receives appropriate training and instructions at the employer's expense on measures to safeguard health and prevent accidents, as well as on the appropriate action if there is any evidence of poisoning.
24. In appropriate positions in premises in which benzene or products containing benzene are used, notices should be displayed which indicate:
(a) the hazards;
(b) the preventive measures to be taken;
(c) the protective equipment to be used;
(d) first-aid measures to be taken in cases of acute benzene poisoning.
VII. General Provisions
25. Each Member should:
(a) by laws or regulations or any other method consistent with national practice and conditions, take such steps as may be necessary to give effect to the provisions of this Recommendation;
(b) in accordance with national practice, specify the person or persons on whom the obligation of compliance with the provisions of this Recommendation rests;
(c) provide appropriate inspection services for the purpose of supervising the application of the provisions of this Recommendation, or satisfy itself that appropriate inspection is carried out.
26. The competent authority in each country should actively promote research into harmless or less harmful products which could replace benzene.
27. The competent authority should establish a statistical system for reporting data concerning medically observed cases of benzene poisoning and these should be published annually.