BOHS supports HSE’s #DustBuster campaign

BOHS, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, has applauded the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as its current #DustBuster inspection campaign – aimed at protecting Britain’s workers from life-changing and fatal lung diseases – gets under way.

During June and July 2019, the health and safety watchdog will be carrying out a series of proactive, targeted inspections, with the focus on occupational lung disease. The latest inspection campaign follows an earlier initial #DustBuster campaign which took place towards the end of last year.  

In the current campaign, inspectors are now visiting construction, woodworking and food manufacturing sites in June and July 2019. 

As the momentum of the inspection campaign gathersemployers, managers and workers are being urged to familiarise themselves with the HSE’s advice and guidance on occupational respiratory health, ahead of a visit from an inspector. 

BOHS is calling for better awareness in particular of the following key facts:  

  • Every year work-related lung diseases cause nearly 12,000 deaths. This is about 90% of the total annual death toll of 13,000 deaths caused by occupational ill health in general. 
  • Some of these diseases, like lung cancers caused by asbestos or cancers of the nose caused by wood or leather dusts, take a relatively long time to develop, so in the past neither workers nor their employers may have been aware of the link to the workplace.  
  • Others illnesses, for example occupational asthma caused by flour dust or acute silicosis due to breathing in microscopic pieces of sand and rock, can occur more quickly. 
  • The negative effects of these diseases on the quality of life of workers – and their families – can be extreme. In some cases, these illnesses are fatal. 

Commenting on the issue, John DobbiePresident of the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), said,

“Ignorance of the principles of occupational hygiene can be fatal, or at least life-changing, when it comes to dusts from substances like asbestos as well as the less obvious ones, such as flour, wood and sand 

This summer, as the HSE’s inspectors visit businesses across the country, we are urging businesses not to get caught out by a lack of knowledge about how dusts can harm the lungs of their workers. Information outlining best practice in occupational hygiene is available for free from the resources sections of BOHS’s Breathe Freely campaign to prevent occupational lung disease.  

Many employers will be pleasantly surprised at how small changes, in terms of simple, low-cost control measures, can reap big health rewards for their workforce. Employers need to be aware of techniques like water suppression, vacuum extraction and using the correct type of masks to reduce exposures to dusts and occupational hygienists can offer help in this regard. 

We also urge employers not to be swayed by scare mongering or sensationalised press reports about HSE inspection campaigns. The HSE is not in the business of banning brushes and brooms, or any other useful equipment for that matter, in the workplace. The #DustBuster inspection campaign is about putting in place sensible control measures in order to keep the lungs of workers healthy.”