Getting help to prevent work-related lung disease

As an employer, you're obliged by law to control the risks to your workers from exposure to hazardous substances.

Breathing in dusts, gases, fumes and vapours in the workplace can cause serious, long-term lung damage. Often, this can be due to being exposed to a substance many years before.

By protecting your workers effectively now, you can prevent them from suffering from severe, often incurable, lung-related health problems in the future.

Identifying risks to your workers

If your workers could be exposed to hazardous substances, you must assess and manage the risk to them.

Some common hazardous substances are:

  • silica dust – found in stone, rock, sand and clays
  • welding fumes
  • flour dust
  • wood dust
  • asbestos (for work involving asbestos specific regulations and guidance apply)

If you're unsure if a substance is harmful, get specialist advice.

Protecting your workers health

Each workplace has unique risks which can depend on a number of factors, including:

  • the type of substances workers are exposed to
  • the tasks being performed
  • the work environment

Even if you work with the same substances used by others, the risks in your workplace can be different to theirs.

Competent advice

You must use someone competent to ensure the control measures you put in place are effective for your workplace. Because of the specialist skills, knowledge and experience needed to deal with the risks from exposure to dust, gases fumes and vapours, it's likely you'll need advice from someone outside your business.

More than one specialist may be required e.g. a hygienist and an occupational health professional would be required to advise on LEV and health surveillance respectively.

Although you'll have to pay for a consultant or adviser, they can help ensure that your workers are protected, and a healthy workforce could save you money.

If you install equipment to protect your workers' health, it must work effectively. Inadequate equipment can harm your workers and may be costly to replace. A consultant or adviser can advise you on:

  • the most appropriate control equipment for your workplace and how to maintain it
  • the appropriate controls for your industry
  • which equipment suppliers to use

Remember, it's your legal responsibility as the employer to ensure the controls measures are effective, even if you get outside help.

Find out more about the specialist help available.

Finding a consultant or adviser

If you need the help of a consultant or adviser to prevent work-related lung disease, a good place to start is the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) the chartered society for worker health protection. They publish a directory of qualified and experienced specialists.

You can find a link to their website and other organisations that can help in our guidance on finding a consultant or adviser.

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Updated: 2022-11-09