Are there significant risks to respiratory health (lung function) in your workplace?

What is the problem? 

Many industries may result in dust such as flour, wood, coal, asbestos or other substances which are respiratory sensitisers such as isocyanates in paints which can result in health problems including asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fibrosis or in rare cases such as asbestos exposure, lung cancer.

What legislation applies to dust in the workplace?

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002

What can be done to reduce the effects of dust? 

Employers must assess the risk to workers’ health if they are working in an environment that exposes them to potential respiratory sensitisers.   

Where-ever possible exposure should be reduced or eliminated using engineering controls such as ventilation systems. Appropriate personal protective equipment may be appropriate where the exposure cannot be controlled. If a worker is exposed to respiratory sensitisers, an employer should ensure that they are provided with suitable health surveillance. 

More about health surveillance

Usually a pre-placement questionnaire is used to establish a baseline and identify any who might be unfit to work with respiratory sensitisers prior to a worker commencing tasks which might involve exposure. The HSE recommends in most cases a questionnaire and spirometry (lung function test) is carried out three months into employment and then very six months for the first two years.  Annual surveillance can then be conducted if no problems are identified.

Next Steps

If you are an employer and need to have a workplace assessment carried out to clarify if your workers are at risk, we would be happy to arrange an assessment.

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