Argon-Related Fatigue: An Investigation in an Aluminum Shipbuilding Environment
- Neil McManus (ANSI Z9.9 Chair) | Assed N. Haddad (Polytechnic School of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- October 2015
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 47 - 55
- 2015. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 32 since 2007
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- This article examines the role argon plays in causing unusual fatigue among workers at ambient conditions. Occupational hygiene has long considered argon to be physiologically inert, yet the diving literature indicates that argon produces effects even at low gas pressure used at shallow depths.
- Exposure to argon was estimated from 33,600 minute-by-minute measurements of oxygen during gas-shielded welding and related work.
- Exposure to argon varied with job title, and by work location and orientation. This study provides a starting point for discussion about setting an occupational exposure limit for argon under ambient conditions.
Fatigue is a nonspecific condition that affects people periodically in life (CCOHS, 2014; Nordqvist, 2014). People with fatigue often express lack of energy, discomfort, feeling unwell or sleepy, loss of motivation, poor concentration, and difficulty in making decisions and performing daily tasks. Expression of fatigue in individuals and collectively in groups raises obvious concerns about safe performance of work (CCOHS, 2014; Hallowell, 2010). One can cite many causes for fatigue, including recent or current illness; pregnancy and early child care; overconsumption of caffeinated products; stress induced by bereavement; moving to a different home; divorce; work problems; jet lag; depression; boredom; lack of sleep; and medical issues including some types of poisoning, vitamin or mineral deficiency, anemia and thyroid problems. Complicating matters further is the potential role of prescription drugs in fatigue. Statins, which lower cholesterol and are among the most commonly prescribed medications, can cause tiredness and decreased energy upon exertion (Golomb, Evans, Dimsdale, et al., 2012).
Fatigue is not normally a basis for setting exposure guidelines except for lifting and other musculoskeletal concerns (ACGIH, 2001b). Physical fatigue often results from overexertion and excessive repetition of tasks over a long period. Mental fatigue can result from task repetition and long periods of intense concentration (CCOHS, 2014; Hallowell, 2010). Thus, fatigue is an unusual basis for investigating work that is not considered strenuous or repetitive, or does not impose lifting requirements.
An Unusual Case
This investigation was initiated when a group of workers fabricating large welded structures from aluminum at a shipyard in Vancouver, British Columbia, expressed concerns about fatigue. Their concerns had begun during welder training at the on-site school and continued during production; similar concerns were expressed by workers in all of the buildings in which this activity was performed.
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