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News

New approved code of practice to help prevent occupational asthma

HSE InfoLine : 07 May, 2006  (New Product)
The Health and Safety Executive has published a new Approved Code of Practice to help ensure substances that cause occupational asthma are properly controlled by employers. Occupational asthma is the most frequently diagnosed respiratory disease in Great Britain. HSE estimates that between 1,500 and 3,000 people develop it every year.
The costs to society of new cases of the disease over the next ten years are estimated to be between 579 million and 1,159 million. Some sufferers cannot work again and others may have to change jobs to avoid exposure to the substance that caused the asthma. They may no longer be able to use their specialist skills or may face a restricted lifestyle.

Control of Substances that Cause Occupational Asthma, part of the Health and Safety Commission's campaign to reduce occupational asthma by 30 per cent by 2010, has been combined with the recently published revised Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, ACoP, avoiding the need for employers to purchase a second priced publication.

John Thompson, head of chemical policy at HSE, said:

'It will surprise many to know that seemingly innocent substances like flour or wood dust can become major health hazards. With proper control measures in the workplace, occupational asthma is entirely preventable. Employers must act now to prevent this debilitating disease.

'Spray painting in the motor vehicle repair industry, involving a group of substances called isocyanates, is the most common cause of the disease. Exposure to tiny particles of flour dust in bakeries or wood dust in woodworking, and vapour from glutaraldehyde, a sterilising solution used in hospitals, are other leading causes.'

The ACoP outlines what the law requires to ensure that these substances are properly controlled. Particular attention should be given to identifying and assessing controls for short-term tasks involving very high exposures. All employees exposed or liable to be exposed to a substance that may cause occupational asthma should be under health surveillance and if an individual develops the disease, their exposure must be controlled to prevent triggering further attacks.
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