Understanding the Risk of Lung Disease

Carpenter sawing wood with a mask to prevent lung disease

Lung diseases and respiratory conditions are serious health issues that can affect employees. These conditions may not only affect the immediate health and safety of workers but could also have long-term effects on their quality of life.

Approximately 12,000 deaths related to lung disease every year are linked to a person’s work history, according to the HSE. Furthermore, the Labour Force Survey findings estimate that there are approximately 17,000 annual new cases of breathing or lung problems either caused or exacerbated by work responsibilities.

Lung diseases most commonly linked to deaths in the UK include:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease—33 per cent
  • Non-asbestos related lung cancer—24 per cent
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer—20 per cent
  • Mesothelioma—20 per cent

One reason for the unfortunate frequency of lung disease is that workers across various industries are regularly exposed to potentially hazardous tasks or materials. Some examples of high-risk work include:

  • Cutting, drilling and sanding
  • Welding
  • Stonework
  • Cement and concrete production
  • Woodworking
  • Baking and milling

To protect workers and mitigate their risk of developing a lung condition, employers should consider how the following steps can be taken in their own workplace:

  • Change processes—Adjust the way everyday tasks are performed to reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous materials.
  • Reconsider materials—Take time to analyse the materials used in the workplace and conduct research to determine if a less dangerous alternative is available.
  • Ventilate—Avoid having workers in enclosed areas with poor ventilation.
  • Protect—Use personal protective equipment, such as breathing masks.

Chemical Company Fined £1 Million After Fatal Explosion

A chemical company in Norwich has been fined £1 million after a 46-year-old man died in an explosion in 2018. After an investigation that spanned three years, the HSE found that Briar Chemicals Limited had failed to take necessary precautions to prevent the explosion. The accident occurred while an employee was conducting repairs to a mixing vessel. Investigations discovered Toluene residue had been left inside the vessel after it had been shut down for maintenance. It is suspected that the explosion was caused by the worker’s welding torch or grinder igniting Toluene vapour inside the machine. Briar Chemicals pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 5 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015.

For more information on work-related lung disease, contact us today.