Uvex on the issues surrounding breathing protection
Breathing Protection: The Long-Term View
Eurosafe Group supplier, Uvex shares its knowledge about the consequences of not taking the long-term view of respiratory protection at work. With the belief that ‘it will never happen to me’, many workers are putting their lives at risk.
Uvex explains “Sadly we now know only too well the devastating long-term effects (15 or even 20 years later) asbestos, respirable crystalline silica, or silica dust, or other carcinogens have on the respiratory systems and health of those who regularly inhale them.
“While asbestos is the biggest killer, silica dust is catching it up. Exposure to this is currently a big issue, exemplified by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)’s ‘No Time to Lose’ www.notime- tolose.org.uk campaign, a new, global, cross-industry commitment to tackle silica dust and related work- place cancers.
“Exposure to harmful substances can, in the long term, lead to incurable silicosis, lung cancer and other serious lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis (TB).
“Cancer from working with carcinogens is the leading cause of EU work-related deaths, responsible for more than 100,000 deaths per year, while 900 workers in Britain get lung cancer from silica dust exposure each year, and at least 666,000 workers a year die from workplace cancer globally.
Quartz is the most common form of silica, found in common workplace substances such as sand, stone, rock, concrete, bricks, clay and mortar. Silica is only hazardous when very small dust particles are inhaled, which penetrate deep into the lungs.
Operations such as cutting, sanding, sawing, drilling, grinding and crushing of concrete, brick, ceramic tiles, rock and stone products can cause airborne silica dust, so that workers in industries such as construction, demolition, excavation, foundries and glass, pottery and concrete products are particularly vulnerable. While dust control measures
such as local exhaust ventilation systems and dust suppression by vacuuming or spraying water are useful, these are not enough on their own. Well-fitting, appropriate and comfortable RPE should also be provided to prevent workers from breathing the dust that inevitably becomes airborne despite these other measures.
Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), employers must perform an assessment of the risks from silica dust and take any necessary preventative or control measures. They must keep exposure below the Workplace Exposure Limit of 0.1 mg/m3 respirable dust, averaged over eight hours, and, where necessary, provide workers with, and train them how to maintain and use properly, respiratory protective equipment (RPE), which must also be face fit tested.
The correct type of disposable, or reusable, breathing protection should be selected for the task in hand, according to the level of hazard, to ensure that it per- forms properly. Disposable masks are designed to keep out dust, and may feature valves to ease breathing, while reusable respirators protect against chemicals, gases and vapours as well as particulates.
Whichever type is chosen, they need to fit properly, be as comfortable as possible over long periods of time to prevent workers taking them o , be super-sealable, reliable, able to fit a variety of head sizes and face shapes, have low breathing resistance and be compatible with other PPE, such as eyewear.
EN149 Standard specifies three types of filtering face piece respirator: FFP1, the simplest device, FFP2, which o ers more protection, and FFP3, which gives a greater level of protection for jobs such as cutting kerbstones, reducing exposure by a factor of 20.
Uvex offers a selection of all three types of breathing protection mask, all of which perfectly fit all the above criteria and all of which are available from Eurosafe.
Providing RPE that does not fit the wearer properly and is therefore ineffective can be worse than not providing any protection, since it may give a false sense of security. The BSIF’s Fit2Fit (Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme) www.fit2fit.org gives helpful advice and lists accredited testers, and aims to raise the quality of fit-testing in the UK.
Deaths related to exposure to asbestos fibres are still increasing in the UK, because workers were not protected in the past. In 2014 there were over 2,500 deaths from mesothelioma, a form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, with a similar number of deaths from asbestos-related lung cancer.
Huge and growing numbers of workers worldwide are equally at risk from silica dust, so employers must think ahead and take sensible precautions to prevent silicosis becoming the new asbestosis in 20 years’ time.