HSE Bulletin – February

World Cancer Day: a reminder of the risks to lungs from work activities

Saturday 4 February marks World Cancer Day, the international awareness day to help educate and work together to reduce preventable cancer deaths.

Each year, it is estimated that 12,000 people die from work-related lung diseases linked to exposure during their working lives, including lung cancer.

If you work with certain dusts, gases, fumes and vapours in the workplace, it’s important that you understand the risks and protect workers’ health by using effective control measures. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their workers from ill health.

Our website has guidance for a range of workplaces to prevent work-related lung diseases.

Safety alert issued by HSE

HSE has issued a safety alert that exposure to vapour from diacetyl, often used as a flavouring and a by-product of coffee roasting, can lead to severe and irreversible lung disease.

Even if diacetyl is present at low concentrations within mixtures or flavourings, exposure to its vapour may be above safe workplace exposure limits (WELs).

HSE scientific studies show that heating diacetyl above certain temperatures significantly increases airborne concentrations and the potential for exposures above safe workplace limits.

View the safety alert and learn more about the risks in in coffee and flavour manufacture.

Initial findings from our recent silica inspections in manufacturing

HSE inspectors are carrying out targeted inspection initiatives focusing on manufacturing businesses where materials that contain silica are used.

The inspections, which started on 3 October 2022, are checking whether employers and workers know the risks involved when dealing with silica and ensure that businesses have control measures in place to protect workers’ respiratory health. This includes brick and tile manufacturers, foundries, stone working sites and manufacturers of kitchen worktops.

Employers have a legal duty to put in place suitable arrangements to manage health and safety and ensure they comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Inspectors are looking for evidence that businesses have put in place effective measures, such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV), water suppression and where appropriate, use of protective equipment such as respiratory protective equipment (RPE), to reduce workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

If any health and safety breaches are discovered, HSE will take enforcement action to make sure workers’ health is protected. 

Whilst inspections are still ongoing, initial findings have indicated poor management of RPE in these industries. Where RPE is provided as part of RCS control, employers should ensure that:

  • the type of RPE provided is appropriate for the task
  • the level of protection it provides is suitable for the task
  • tight-fitting RPE is face fit tested and wearers are clean shaven
  • a programme for regular cleaning, checking and maintenance is in place
  • RPE is stored effectively to ensure it remains clean
  • RPE needs to be worn properly and that it needs to be compatible with any other personal protective equipment (PPE)/clothing being used

To view the related information and guidance visit: 

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