The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has officially launched a major new phase of its Breathe Freely initiative to prevent occupational lung disease in the manufacturing sector.
The campaign’s aim is to raise awareness of the respiratory health hazards, which cause around 90% of the estimated 13,000 deaths in Britain each year from work-related diseases across all sectors. Looking at the manufacturing sector specifically, it is estimated that annually, around 4,000 workers suffer from breathing and lung problems they believed were caused or made worse by their work.
Welding is one of the most common activities carried out in the UK. It is estimated that there are around 190,000 workers in the UK who weld, comprising of around 73,000 professional, skilled welders and many other unskilled or semi-skilled welders who carry out welding as part of their job. Welding is one of the top ten causes of work-related cancer, estimated at causing around 150 deaths a year in the UK. In addition, welding is associated with numerous other serious health conditions, such as asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), metal fume fever and effects on the nervous system as well as short-term irritation of the throat and lungs, and reduced lung function.
Each year, it is estimated that breathing metal fume at work leads to 40 to 50 welders being hospitalised with pneumonia, with the disease killing about two welders annually.
The Breathe Freely resources for manufacturing can be accessed through BOHS’s web-based centre of excellence on exposure control at www.breathefreely.org.uk