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RR1139 - Uptake and quality of health surveillance for occupational asthma in the woodworking, baking and motor vehicle repair sectors

Occupational asthma is a respiratory disease that is largely preventable using good practice measures to control worker exposure to asthmagens. Health surveillance is legally required when there is a reasonable likelihood that workers’ health may be affected by their work and there is an appropriate method to detect the work-related health condition. Health surveillance can help make sure that any ill health effects are detected as early as possible so that remedial action can be taken. This report describes research into the levels of uptake and quality of health surveillance for occupational asthma in three industry sectors at increased risk of occupational asthma: woodworking; baking; and motor vehicle repair. A summary of results was published in 2016 in the journal Occupational Medicine (doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqw028).

Telephone interviews were held with employers from 457 organisations, of which 67% reported carrying out risk assessments. Of those organisations that reported exposures that might cause occupational asthma, only 19% carried out some form of health surveillance. Health surveillance was more commonly carried out in medium/large than in small/micro organisations. Telephone interviews were also held with 11 health surveillance providers. Considerable variation in practice was identified. For instance, not all providers assessed annual decline in workers’ lung function, and only a minority used the dutyholder’s risk assessment or policy or procedure to determine the health surveillance scheme.

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Updated 2019-10-23