Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used to describe a number of illnesses affecting the lungs, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
It is characterised by worsening lack or shortness of breath.
It is estimated that 1.2 million people are living with diagnosed COPD – considerably more than the 835,000 estimated by the Department of Health in 2011. In terms of diagnosed cases, this makes COPD the second most common lung disease in the UK, after asthma.
Whilst smoking is by far the greatest contributor to COPD, research shows that occupational exposures to dusts are also likely to play a role.
People working in a wide range of industries, from agriculture to welding, foundries to construction, can be exposed to substances likely to increase their risk of developing COPD.
Preventing dusts, fume and irritant gases from getting into the air is usually more effective, simpler, and cheaper, than controlling dust once it is in the air.
Ensure that a competent person carries out a risk assessment and work with your employees to identify sensible control measures to eliminate harmful dusts.
If that is not possible then minimise them through suppression techniques, relocating dust producing equipment and machinery away from workers, utilise local exhaust ventilation or extraction systems and through the wearing of correctly fitted respiratory protective equipment.
Currently, there is no cure for COPD, but treatment can help slow the progression of the condition and control the symptoms. If you have COPD and you smoke, the most important thing you can do is stop.
If you are concerned about the amount of dust in your workplace, contact THSP, to arrange for one of our trained and competent consultants to undertake a dust survey and provide you with the advice needed to adequately control this risk.