Last year the HSE held the Workplace Healthy Lungs Summit which sought to tackle Occupational Lung disease by bringing employers and experts together to look at the science, evidence and the best practice that can lead to improved control of risk.
This summit was crucially important for the thousands of employees that work in hazardous conditions and consequently have a higher likelihood of suffering from Occupational lung diseases.
What is Occupational lung disease?
The European Respiratory Society states a definitive link between occupational exposures to hazardous materials such as airborne dust and the development or worsening of common respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and lung cancer.
“Both the accumulation of toxic dust in the lungs and immunological sensitisation to inhaled occupational agents can cause interstitial lung disease.”
The legal obligation to protecting employee health
Most businesses use or create materials/products that are mixtures of substances that can potentially cause harm to employees, contractors and other people associated with the business.
If you work in an industry that produces substances like these then it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that adequate prevention and control measures are put in place and their first port of call should be a COSHH assessment.
What is COSHH?
COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’ and under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.
These regulations place a legal obligation on employers to either prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.
Hazardous substances can include:
- Substances used directly in work activities (e.g. Flour, ???)
- Substances generated during work activities (e.g. Grain, wood, silica etc.)
- Naturally occurring substances (e.g. grain dust https://www.disab.co.uk/industries/grain-feed/, wood dust (https://www.disab.co.uk/industries/wood-processing-dust/))
- Biological agents such as bacteria and other micro-organisms (TANK CLEANING??).
The HSE has a free downloadable guide called ‘Working with substances hazardous to health’ – which gives an overview of what COSHH is and what it means for employers.
The COSHH assessment explained
A COSHH assessment is essentially a risk assessment that evaluates a specific task or process that involves using a potentially hazardous substance.
The COSHH Assessment is carried out in order to:
➢ Identify any hazardous substances you may use and what the health hazards are.
➢ Evaluate whether you are taking sufficient precautions to reduce exposure risk to an acceptable level.
➢ Decide on any additional control measures you may need to put in place to prevent or control the exposure to an acceptable level.
The HSE provide useful information about COSHH and how it affects you in your industry. Click here for more information.
What YOU need to do next
Whether you are an employer or an employee, if you are working in an industrial environment where air quality may be an issue then it’s essential that you evaluate your own processes and make changes that will not only benefit the workforce but also potentially increase productivity and efficiencies.
If you have specific requirements about the removal of dust in your workplace, whatever the industry, a DISAB industrial Vacuum unit can help. Get in touch with the DISAB team who can offer specialist advice on your sector and specific needs.