BOHS, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, has revealed plans for a brand new Breathe Freely campaign to prevent occupational lung disease in the manufacturing sector, following its original initiative which is well underway, and will continue, in the construction industry.

BOHS successfully launched Breathe Freely, aimed at controlling exposures to prevent occupational lung disease in the construction industry, on 28 April 2015, Workers’ Memorial Day.

Now BOHS has confirmed that Breathe Freely for the manufacturing sector will be launched around the time of Workers’ Memorial Day in April 2017, to run in tandem with the Society’s existing construction-based initiative. With the aim of maximising improvements in respiratory health protection at work, BOHS has confirmed the initial focus will be on the key area of welding activities in manufacturing.

The new Breathe Freely campaign will be launched in partnership with: EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation; HSE; The Welding Institute; the TUC; and a number of other leading manufacturing organisations.  A wide range of further organisations, both public and private, will also be invited to sign up as supporters and sponsors, in order that the message extends to a broader variety of workplaces in the manufacturing sector, throughout the UK.

To complement BOHS’s construction-based initiative, a new website is being developed, packed with practical, free resources, such as fact sheets, case studies and other tools, all specifically tailored to help employers in the manufacturing sector protect their workers’ respiratory health.

Commenting on the plans, Terry Woolmer, Head of Health and Safety Policy at EEF, said, “EEF is delighted to collaborate with BOHS on this second phase of the Breathe Freely campaign. We believe this initiative will provide important support for employers, in order to help them effectively control exposures and prevent occupational lung disease in the manufacturing industry. It also expresses EEF’s commitment to HSE’s Helping Great Britain work well strategy by taking joint ownership for the management of a specific ill-health issue in the manufacturing sector.”

HSE’s Kären Clayton, Deputy Director of Chemicals Regulation Division said, “Tackling ill health is a key component of the new five-year strategy #HelpGBWorkWell. HSE welcomes this next phase of the Breathe Freely initiative in the manufacturing sector, and the initial focus on controlling exposures to welding fume, which remains a key priority area for HSE. We look forward to continuing to work with BOHS and others on this ongoing initiative.”

Steve Perkins, CEO of BOHS added, “The critical message of Breathe Freely – that tackling respiratory illness is the single most important action needed to reduce work-related ill health and mortality in the UK today – is becoming embedded within the construction sector, gathering both local and international momentum. Now it’s time to extend our focus to the manufacturing industry and ensure the lungs of this sector’s workers are protected as they should be, with the application of cost-effective, practical occupational hygiene solutions.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Ahead of the launch, BOHS has highlighted some statistics which illustrate the importance of tackling respiratory disease in the manufacturing sector, as follows:
  • Every year, around 4,000 workers in the manufacturing sector suffer from breathing and lung problems they believed were caused or made worse by their work
  • It is estimated that some 2,200 deaths from cancer each year are caused by past work in manufacturing industries, with around half of these estimated cases the result of previous exposure to mineral oils (associated with lung and bladder cancer) and asbestos (associated with lung cancer and mesothelioma)
  • Medical statistics suggest that workers in the manufacturing sector have rates of occupational asthma that are about three times higher than the all-industry average
  1. BOHS has shared the following key facts about welding work in Britain:
  • Around 75,000 workers in Britain are currently exposed to welding fume with welders spread across many manufacturing and fabrication industries and present in both large and small businesses
  • HSE has identified welding as one of the top ten causes of work-related cancer, causing around 152 deaths a year
  • Every year, breathing metal fume at work also leads to some 40 to 50 welders being hospitalised with pneumonia, with the disease killing around two welders each year
  • Besides pneumonia and cancer, welding work is associated with numerous other respiratory ill health conditions, such as asthma and metal fume fever, as well as short-term irritation of the throat and lungs, and reduced lung function