European legislation related to exposure to chemical agents is becoming stricter. REACH and CLP have ensured that more agents are classified as dangerous and there are also more agents end up on authorisation and restricted lists. It is clear that the industry has to deal with this and exposure to chemicals is considered to be under control. The last few years the warehouse workers are worrying more and more about exposure to chemical agents. Deadly accidents with fumigated containers was the trigger but should we worry about that or should we be more aware about chronic exposure to a soup of chemicals? In several countries procedures for measuring sea fright containers are introduced. They are mainly based on non- or semi-selective methods and focus on 16 specific chemical agents and total VOC.
A study in different warehouses showed some remarkable results. Less than 1% of the total inbound flow was actual fumigated and this was even not deliberately. A shift in personal exposure was seen when having measuring campaigns in winter and in summer. In winter there is more background exposure and in summer the peak exposure when opening a container was higher. Investigation of the procedures that are introduced in several European countries is showing that the need for a proper risk assessment is needed before a safe unloading process can be made. The defined group of 16 chemical agents and the total VOC is far from what is needed to asses workers exposure.