HSE Focuses on Reduction of Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) in Great Britain

17th August 2018

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a report, following the research it commissioned Kantar Public to undertake in 2017. The aim of the research was to better understand workplace contexts in relation to OLD, and interventions that will increase the use of mitigations. As part of their Health and Work programme, the HSE has identified reducing levels of OLD as one of its three priority health areas, along with Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) and work-related stress.

The report highlights that OLD is estimated to result in approximately 12,000 deaths each year and 18,000 estimated annual new cases of self-reported breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work.

To help reduce OLD, the HSE has increased enforcement and inspection activity with the industry sectors where the incidence of OLD and the potential risk of exposure are particularly high, namely: construction, wood working, stone working, steel welding, bakeries and quarrying.

According to the report, OLD is generally caused by exposure to a wide range of workplace agents, including dusts, fumes and vapours, with asbestos and respirable crystalline silica (RCS) being particularly substantial contributors to the burden of lung disease. The delayed nature of some disease states further complicates recognition of the problem.

The main report findings highlight workers’ and employers’ perceptions of health and safety, factors driving their behaviour in relation to OLD, differences in attitude and awareness of OLD across the various sectors, and what these findings mean for the HSE when considering how to increase the uptake and impact of mitigations.

A copy of the report is available on the HSE website.

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