Last reviewed 1 August 2022

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is reminding us of the controls to use to reduce exposure to dichloromethane (DCM).

During some recent inspections the HSE found that work has been carried out without the key controls in place. DCM has a number of uses but in this particular case it was being used to strip alloy wheels of their coating. DCM is suspected of causing cancer and can burn the skin and eyes and exposure to high concentrations of DCM vapour has caused impaired consciousness and death.

The HSE reminds us that the following control methods must be used to reduce exposure.

  • Provide a tank with effective local exhaust ventilation, eg back slot extraction.

  • Use a pump or siphon to transfer the stripping mixture when filling or emptying the tank.

  • Use lifting equipment to lower and lift workpieces from the tank to prevent the need to lean over the tank.

  • Use lids to cover stripping tanks and only remove them to load or retrieve the workpieces being stripped.

  • Use constant flow airline breathing apparatus when:

    • manually lowering or lifting workpieces

    • manually transferring wet workpieces to another area for scraping and rinsing

    • performing cleaning and maintenance tasks, like sludge removal and replacing stripping fluid, and while dealing with spills.

More information is available on the HSE website, along with an advice sheet for managers and a general advice sheet.