Health & Safety Executive focuses on occupational lung disease


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have launched a new campaign to tackle occupational lung disease, with a particular focus on those working with wood.

Occupational lung diseases, such as asbestosis, cystic fibrosis and lung cancer, account for almost 12,000 deaths in the UK every year, with a further 17,000 new cases of reported respiratory problems caused by work.

Devastatingly, through the proper use of modern ventilation systems, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and appropriate safe-guards, occupational lung disease can be totally avoidable.

As part of this new campaign taking place across the UK, health and safety inspectors will be visiting sawmills, manufacturing facilities and carpenters to assess their existing control measures to reduce worker exposure to respiratory hazards such as wood dust and other potentially harmful substances.


HSE’s head of manufacturing David Butter said: “Around 12,000 workers died last year from lung diseases linked to past exposure from work, with thousands more cases of ill-health and working days lost. Wood dust can cause serious health problems. It can cause asthma, which carpenters and joiners are four times more likely to get compared with other UK workers, as well as nasal cancer. Our campaign aims to help businesses whose workers cut and shape wood to take action now to protect their workers’ respiratory health.

“Through visiting wood working businesses, our inspectors are able to speak to a range of dutyholders and look at the measures they have in place to comply with the guidance and protect workers from respiratory diseases such as occupational asthma and nasal cancer.  

“Businesses can act now to ensure they are complying with the law by ensuring the control of wood dust at source by fitting and using extraction on machines.  Ensuring they fit and use guards on machines to protect fingers and hands and ensure those that use the machine to understand the risks and how to control them. Checking that guards are well adjusted will minimise danger and ensure that dust capture remains effective.

“Our inspection initiative aims to ensure employers and workers are aware of the risks associated with the activities they do. They must recognise these dangers and manage these risks through reducing exposure. Dutyholders need to do the right thing, for example, through completing a risk assessment, ensuring workers are trained, appropriate guarding is fitted and adjusted correctly, and reducing exposure using local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and using suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect workers, where required.”


For more information and advice from the HSE on controlling hazards in the workplace, click here.

For more information about adequate and suitable RPE, click here.