Safety in the use of synthetic vitreous fibre insulation wools (glass wool, rock wool, slag wool)

This ILO code of practice defines major principles and approaches concerning safety requirements and precautions in the use of insulation wools (glass wool, rock wool and slag wool). It provides practical control measures to minimize occupational exposure to fibres and dusts from insulation wools, prevent irritation and discomfort, and avert any long-term health risks involved in working with such products. The code promotes an integrated approach, taking account of the fact that synthetic vitreous fibre insulation wools do not appear in the workplace in their pure forms but rather as a product with mixed components. Emphasis is placed on addressing all the hazards arising from the product (insulation fibres, binders and other materials), taking account of real work situations.

Code of practice | 01 January 2001
The code specifies general duties for manufacturers, suppliers, specifiers, employers, workers and the competent authorities, all of whom have an important role to play in maintaining safety in the entire process, from manufacture to waste disposal. The perspective has thus been enlarged in order to establish a proper chain of responsibility so that the diversified situations prevailing in various countries will be covered.

The general measures of prevention and protection specified by the code, and the relevant information included in the appendices (systems of classification, exposure data and risk assessment), are of particular use to developing countries and countries in transition. The code emphasizes that such measures should be consistent with the classification and potential health effects of the insulation wools, and the competent authority should ascertain which measures are to be applied. This guidance will benefit especially small-scale enterprises in establishing an appropriate level of protection for workers.

The code is published as a part of the ILO’s efforts to improve working conditions and environment. It is intended to be applied worldwide, and particularly in countries which do not have, or are in the process of developing, safe work practices in the use of insulation wools. It was prepared through extensive research work and technical consultations with the ILO constituents. Good work practices for dealing with insulation wools, already developed in some member States, provided a solid basis for the preparatory work.