Lung disease and breathing problems that are caused or exacerbated by work occur in most industry sectors.
There are several things that can cause breathing problems or diseases: silica, enzymes, asbestos, dust, fumes - even flour!
The term occupational lung disease includes many different conditions such as COPD, lung cancer, legionella, asthma and other life-altering or limiting lung diseases. Some of these develop shortly after exposure to the cause, while others can develop much later in life.
Occupational lung disease is responsible for around 12,000 deaths every year and 14,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems. Each year around 400,000 working days are lost to occupational lung disease. It is a big problem for industry and the HSE set out a work programme to tackle it last year.
The HSE, together with local authorities, are hosting an 18-monthly National Summit on occupational lung disease to raise awareness of the problem. They are also using social media and other communication channels to boost engagement with workers and get the important messages out to a wider audience.
They have put new measures in place to improve the prevention and control of respiratory hazards. Interventions, inspections and enforcement are being prioritised in sectors or activities where occupational lung disease poses the greatest threat.
The programme to raise awareness focuses particularly on the construction, quarrying, mining, manufacturing, waste and recycling and agriculture sectors. The intention is for knowledge and best practise to be shared between sectors. To help with this HSE have established the Healthy Lung Partnership which brings together industry professionals and academics.
HSE also have strategies in place to ensure that the next generation of workers are educated and empowered to expect better. They are developing learning activities and new channels of communication - such as social media - to engage and inform apprentices before they enter the workforce.
Last but not least HSE are working with sector consultants like ourselves, to ensure that the most up to date training and appropriate advice is available through our services. To find out more about the training and resources we offer in this area, get in touch with us today.