Asthma and the Workplace

Published : 02/14/2018 09:32:38
Categories : Harrison Hire & Sales Posts

According to a report on the website, food and drink manufacturers need to improve training and monitoring to improve health and safety across the industry or face serious penalties from the Health and Safety Executive. In an effort to reduce occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust and enzymes which contain additives such as amylase they will be conducting unannounced inspections in the near future.

The Health and Safety Executive produced a report in October 2017 which showed that bakers and flour confectioners have the second highest rates of new cases of occupational asthma in Great Britain. Such workplace irritants can either cause asthma or aggravate and existing condition.

Britain is not alone in having problems – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention up to 21% of asthma-related deaths were attributed to occupational exposure making them potentially preventable.

Flour is not the only culprit; in a survey of doctors participating in the Surveillance of work-related and occupational respiratory disease (SWORD) scheme wood dust and animal feed or bedding (straw) are also thought to be contributing to ill health. Agricultural dusts are the most common cause of occupational asthma in this industry. People often come into contact with grain dust and poultry dust, or other dusts that are a mix of materials from fungal spores, bacteria, endotoxins, mites, animal dander and faeces, plant dust, soil, bedding, feed and feed components, chemicals, etc. See for more details.

You can get advice on managing work aggravated asthma here.

Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 employers have a responsibility to protect their employee’s health, so what can be done to minimise the risks of airborne dust? Providing appropriate PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) is good starting point, however keeping your workplace free from irritants is also important. This means finding the right equipment. A specially designed filter is important to avoid dust being released back into the atmosphere. Manufacturers such as Nilfisk and Karcher offer specialist vacuums which will help avoid these issues. Both machines and filters come in L (low risk), M (medium risk) and H (high risk) which meet European standard EN 1822-1.

Vacuum Grain

Another option to remove extremely fine dusts and allergens is to use a High Efficiency Particulate Filter, commonly known as HEPA filters; these are capable of removing 99.97& of contaminant particles 0.3 μm in diameter. Filtration standards stipulate that these filters include minimal pressure drop and maximum airflow when in use. Alternatively, an Ultra-Low Particulate Air (ULPA) filter is more efficient as it can remove 99.999% of contaminants 0.12 μm or larger in diameter.

Apart from the potential to cause workplace asthma, flour and wood dust also have the potential to form an explosible dust cloud. The electric motor, electrostatic charge generated by non-conductors (such as flour or plastic hoses) or thermite sparks produced by a reaction of rusty metals can result in an explosion too.

This means an ATEX rated vacuum is required to avoid the risk of ignition.  ATEX is the French acronym for two European Directives concerned with the control of explosive atmospheres. There are different ATEX classes, equipment that complies will display the EX logo.  You can find advice on selecting an appropriate vacuum on the HSE website.

Alternatively, get in touch with one of our dust control experts who can conduct a site visit and find a vacuum which will meet your requirements.

Contact details

0800 888 6662

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