Smell and Taste

The final chapter in the 5 senses series is on smell and taste and how they can be used in safety. Crazy enough there really aren’t a lot of resources out there on the topic.

Smell and taste work off of each other. Try this small experiment the next time you eat…Just plug your nose. You will see that things taste bland and most of the time don’t taste like much. That’s also the reason that things don’t taste too well when you are sick or have a stuffy nose.

So how can we relate this to safety? On the smell side the first thing that comes up is you can smell smoke. That can be the leading indicator that there is a much bigger problem. You might be able to tell if it is smoldering wood or melting plastic. Sometimes you can even tell the metal is burning during the welding process. But that one is kind of obvious. Now let’s look at using these senses. At your work area, you know what “normal” is. If something smells different or tastes different, you know that some thing is not right. For instance, if a cleaner like bleach or pine cleaner is spilled, in large quantities, you can taste it.

Other areas we can look at:

+natural gas smell- might indicate a gas leak.

+mold- might indicate a water leak or accumulating moisture.

+rotten egg smell – might indicate a broken sewer line or a dry P-trap. If you are doing work out side, it might mean there is an elevated H2S or Hydrogen Sulfide level.

+musty odor – might indicate poor ventilation in a building.

We can even look at heavy perfumes and deodorant. When body odor in some cases.

The big question is, can smells and tastes cause health problems? When people are exposed to these things, especially for prolonged periods, these symptoms have been reported:

  • headaches
  • dizziness, lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • insomnia
  • malaise
  • confusion
  • loss of appetite
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • numbness
  • upper respiratory symptoms
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty with concentration
  • skin irritation

Allergic and asthmatic patients, as well as those with other conditions, report that certain odors, even in the smallest amounts, can trigger an attack.

Smells and tastes can definitely assist you in running a good safety program. But, you have to look at the other side as well and try to control them so you don’t have anyone get sick on your site.

Stay safe out there!

– Shawn

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