Benzene (29 CFR 1910)

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General - Benzene is a clear, colorless liquid with a sweet, aromatic odor.Benzene evaporates quickly, dissolves only slightly in water, and is highly flammable.Industry uses benzene to make chemicals for Styrofoam, plastics, resins, nylon, synthetic fibers, some types of rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Employees will be provided with information and training concerning benzene at the time of initial assignment to a work area where benzene is present and at least annually thereafter if exposure is above the action level.

How Benzene is Harmful - Benzene is primarily an inhalation hazard.Inhalation of high concentrations can affect central nervous system function. Aspiration of small amounts of liquid benzene immediately causes pulmonary edema and hemorrhage of pulmonary tissue.Benzene is harmful, especially to the tissues that form blood cells. Brief exposure of 5-10 minutes to benzene in air at very high levels can cause death. Exposure to benzene happens mostly from breathing contaminated air from industry, automobile exhaust (20% of exposure), tobacco smoke (50% of exposure), or gasoline fumes.

Signs and Symptoms of Exposure – Direct skin contact with benzene may cause erythema (redness of the skin due to congestion of the capillaries). Repeated or prolonged contact may result in drying, scaling dermatitis, or development of secondary skin infections.In addition, there is benzene absorption through the skin.Local effects of benzene vapor or liquid on the eye are slight.

Effects of Exposure – High levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headache, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness. Breathing lower levels over a long period of time can harm blood cells and bone marrow, and cause cancer. Eating or drinking high levels of benzene can cause vomiting or irritation of the stomach, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, rapid heart rate, coma, and death.

Communication of Benzene Hazards - Labels or other appropriate forms of warning shall be provided for containers of benzene within the work environment. Signs will be posted in and around regulated areas as well as entrance and access points. A regulated area is any area where airborne concentrations of benzene exceed, or can reasonably be expected to exceed, the PELs.The signs must read:






Protection - OSHA has set a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 1 part of benzene per million parts of air (1 ppm) for an 8-hr workday.When and where administrative and engineering controls are not feasible, personal protective equipment and clothing shall be worn where appropriate to prevent eye contact and limit dermal exposure to liquid benzene. Personal protective equipment shall be provided by THE COMPANY (except for steel-toe boots) to affected employees at no cost to the employee. Eye and face protection, boots, gloves, sleeves and aprons shall meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.133. The use of personal protective equipment when and where appropriate will be ensured by supervisors.

First-aid Procedures – Listed below are suggested actions to take in situations involving benzene exposure:

  • Eye – Flush immediately with large amounts of water for 15 minutes.Seek medical attention.
  • Skin – Promptly wash with soap and water, removing any contaminated clothing.Seek medical attention.
  • Inhalation – Respiratory support. Seek medical attention.
  • Ingestion – Seek medical attention immediately.

Medical Surveillance – THE COMPANY shall make available a medical surveillance program for employees who are or may be exposed to benzene at or above the action level 30 or more days per year; for employees who are or may be exposed to benzene at or above the PELs 10 or more days per year; and for employees who have been exposed to more than 10 ppm of benzene for 30 or more days in a year prior to the effective date of the standard when employed by THE COMPANY.

This toolbox topic was reviewed by ______________________________________ on ___________________________ with the following employees: