Did you know…?
We all know that too much dust can make you sneeze.
But did you know dust can be contaminated with other materials that are seriously bad for your health? Dust, such as flour and grain dust created in the agricultural and food industries can be infected with a whole host of contaminants including (but not limited to):
- Fungal spores
- Microbial toxins
- Weevils and their excreta
- Animal hair
- Pesticides and fertiliser residue
Medically speaking, flour dust is classified as a respiratory sensitiser. This means flour dust can be a trigger for allergic reactions in a person’s respiratory system. Once a reaction takes place, any further exposure to the allergen – even in small amounts – can produce symptoms. This could be an instant reaction (such as a coughing fit) or, more commonly, a delayed reaction several hours later at night. This delayed reaction, along with illnesses which don’t reveal themselves until many years later, can make connecting the cause to the effect very difficult for the individual to see themselves.
But it’s only dust…?
Flour dust is so light that simply pouring a container of flour releases plumes of visible dust particles into the air. But it’s not just the dust we can see that is a potential hazard.
“Remember, you can’t usually see the very fine dust that you breathe into the deep recesses of your lungs which will cause most harm.” – HSE EH66 (2013) .23
When working with flour, every movement has the potential to release a concoction of harmful substances into the air – so it should be no surprise that respiratory ill-health is so common place in such environments. In fact, as many as 33% of the food industry’s compensation cases are due to occupational asthma.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) list a number of potential workplace illnesses that could be related to exposure to flour dust, including:
- Coughing/breathing difficulties
- Chronic bronchitis
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Extrinsic allergic alveolitis
- Organic dust toxic
What can you do?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations (COSHH) require employers to carry out assessments of the risks to the health of employees which may be cause by hazardous substances. If this is done correctly, your employer should have identified all of the potential sources of exposure, calculated workplace exposure limits (WELs) and put into practice control methods to eliminate/minimise the risk to your health.
Common control methods for handling flour dust in the food industry include appropriate local exhaust ventilation equipment and the use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
A case study
Below is a case study on why respiratory health in the food industry is so important, and how effective proper control methods can be:
A 20-year old man was admitted to hospital from work with an acute asthmatic attack caused by flour dust inhalation. In the previous 12 months he had been absent from work for 25 days with chest symptoms. His exposure to flour dust was dramatically reduced by engineering controls and better work methods and he was able to go back to work. In the following three years he did not have any time off with chest problems.
Shared by the HSE: http://www.hse.gov.uk/food/experience.htm
Selecting the right dust mask
Tight-fitting RPE, including disposable respirator masks, need to be Fit Tested at the selection stage, before first wearing in the workplace environment. This is to ensure it fits the individual’s face and an adequate seal can be achieved.
In the food production industry there is often a high turnover of staff and many workers requiring respiratory protection. In such conditions, reusable RPE can prove too expensive with the additional need for storage, cleaning and maintenance. The volume of dust too can be a problem, with reusable filters clogging quickly.
So we found a solution.
The new FSM18 Custom-Fit Easimask respirator is ideal for protecting you and your colleagues from flour dust (and a whole host of other particulate hazards too).
- Dolomite tested for complete shift wear-time
- A more consistent fit with preformed nose bridge, and
- A 360° seal for added comfort and protection
For more information or to place an order direct, get in touch today: