Bakeries are among businesses to be targeted in a new crackdown on dust control by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
HSE will be conducting a series of unannounced inspections across the UK from 1 July, concentrated on industries including food manufacture, woodworking and construction, where occupational lung diseases are more common.
Inspectors will examining what measures have been put in place to protect workers’ lungs from the likes of flour dust, asbestos, silica and wood. They will be looking for evidence of businesses and workers knowing the risks, planning their work and using the right controls.
If necessary, HSE inspectors can use enforcement.
“Exposure to asbestos, silica, wood, flour and other dust can have life-changing consequences,” said HSE chief medical officer Professor David Fishwick, adding that an estimated 12,000 workers die each year from lung diseases linked to past exposures at work.
“In many cases these diseases take a long time to develop after exposure, so the damage done may not be immediately obvious. Others, such as occupational asthma and acute silicosis, can occur more quickly,” he explained. “These conditions can and do have a significant impact on both the individuals affected and those closest to them, so it is imperative that workers take the necessary precautions to protect their lungs.”
In December last year, East Yorkshire bakery business Coopland & Son was fined almost £160,000 after exposing its staff to flour dust. The case followed an investigation by HSE, which found there was no effective method of control to prevent dust becoming airborne and employees being exposed to breathing it in.
Coopland & Son said it had been monitoring flour dust levels as required under the law, but was subsequently found to be operating under incorrect advice. The business has since taken measures to address the issues raised.