Thousands of UK workers could be suffering from breathing and respiratory issues without realising that a huge range of everyday workplace substances, that are common across most industries, could be the cause according to a warning from workplace equipment supplier Slingsby.
In many cases these allergic reactions can lead to rhinitis, which often results in a blocked nose, or conjunctivitis and in severe cases they can lead to occupational asthma developing. Common irritants, known as respiratory sensitisers, can include latex, henna, penicillin, dyes, grain, flour, spices, seasonings, bakery dust, egg protein, fish protein, wood dust and certain paints. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations employers are required to prevent or control exposure to hazardous substances to protect employees’ health. This means assessing health risks, preventing or controlling exposure to irritants and continually monitoring both the working environment and the health of employees.
Slingsby supplies more than 35,000 workplace products across all industries, including a wide range of personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protection products. The company’s Group Sales and Marketing Director, Lee Wright, says: “Asthma is a potentially life-threatening disease and estimates suggest that a third of all food industry compensation claims are due to occupational asthma. However, it’s not just the food industry that’s affected and sometimes symptoms won’t develop until several hours after coming into contact with the irritant which can make the cause of the asthma difficult to determine.”
“Generally though, people suffering from occupational asthma will find their symptoms are worse during the working week and then often improve after spending a few days away from work or during a holiday. In some cases, what starts as fairly mild asthma, can develop over a number of weeks, months or even years into severe chronic asthma in people who are continually exposed to respiratory sensitisers so it’s definitely not something that can be ignored.” Finally Lee adds: “The good news is that most people who discover they have occupational asthma can make a full recovery if they act fast and seek the right medical treatment. It’s also important that they avoid contact with the respiratory sensitiser that causes the problem, or take measures to protect themselves against it, because it will always act as a trigger for the asthma.”