Some of these ill health conditions develop shortly after exposure, such as work-related asthma. Others illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumoconiosis, can develop many years later. In Northern Ireland estimated figures suggest that COPD, asthma and silicosis are the most prevalent diseases that can be found across a range of industry sectors. An estimated 165 annual deaths in Northern Ireland are believed to be attributable to COPD alone.
Work-related lung disease can be caused by a wide range of agents, from biological organisms through to dusts, fumes and vapours.
The dominant factor that may contribute to an employee’s risk of ill health is their occupation. There are a number of workplace activities that are linked to a high incidence and greater risk of occupational lung disease and include the following:
- agricultural workers
- bakery workers
- construction workers
- engineering workers
- quarry and stone workers
- vehicle paint sprayers
- waste and recycling workers
HSE (GB) provide more guidance and have top tips and advice on how to protect yourself in the workplace:
- Controlling Airborne Contaminants At Work: A Guide to Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) - HSE (GB) website
- Dust and pollutants at work - Go Home Healthy Campaign (youtube.com)
- HSG97 A Step By Step Guide To COSHH Assessment - HSE (GB) website
- COSHH(NI): A brief guide to the regulations 2003
- Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (legislation.gov.uk)
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (legislation.gov.uk)
Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.