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Benzene is a highly flammable, colourless hydrocarbon which occurs in crude oil, natural gas and some ground waters. It is distinctive because of its characteristic sweet odour – and exposure to it can be seriously harmful to health.
Small amounts of benzene are released into the atmosphere through cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust fumes, but it is when people are exposed to the vapour in larger quantities, or over longer periods of time, that it can become very dangerous.
Breathing in or ingesting high levels of benzene at one time can be fatal, while long-term contact – generally considered to be a year or more - can result in leukaemia and other white blood cell cancers. It is also linked to bone marrow suppression which can lead to serious blood disorders such as anaemia.
As it is considered a potential occupational carcinogen, safe levels of benzene are enforced in workplaces, such as offshore installations, oil refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants and foundries,
to reduce the risk to health if it was to be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin or eyes.
While there are strict rules around benzene levels at work, exposure incidents can happen, so it is important to know the warning signs. People who breathe in high levels of benzene may develop these seven symptoms within several minutes or over the course of a few hours:
Anyone who ingests benzene through food and drink can also experience vomiting, stomach pain, sleepiness and convulsions while direct exposure to the skin and eyes can result in irritation and tissue injury.
Mintra’s eLearning course on Benzene Awareness Training is aimed at workers who are required to carry out a task or visit an asset where the hydrocarbon may be present. Written in line with current HSE guidelines and industry best practice, the course aims to equip learners with knowledge that will keep them and their colleagues safe in the event of exposure.
It is just one of a number of hazardous substances eLearning courses available from Mintra, with other titles available on topics such as Asbestos Awareness Training, Chemicals Training, and Hydrogen Sulphide Awareness Training.
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