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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new strategy aimed at improving occupational health standards in UK businesses.

The strategy has three main subjects: work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease.

Occupational lung disease causes around 90% of work-related deaths, leading to an estimated 13,000 deaths each year.

The term ‘occupational lung disease’ includes a wide range of conditions, from those that develop shortly after exposure (e.g. legionella infections, work-related asthma) to those that develop many years later, such as pneumoconiosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, which are life-limiting and/or life-altering.

Occupational lung disease occurs in most industry sectors and is caused by a wide range of agents from biological organisms through to dusts, fumes and vapours, with asbestos and respirable crystalline silica being particularly substantial contributors to the burden of lung disease.

The main pieces of statutory legislation which apply to occupational health include the following (this list is not exhaustive):

  • The Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, (HASAWA) which places responsibilities on both the employer and the employee with regards to health and safety

 

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which require employers to:
    • undertake risk assessment, and implement measures to control risks to health
    • provide information and training to staff on hazards and controls
    • appoint competent persons to help them assess and control risks (this includes access to competent occupational health and other healthcare practitioners)
    • undertake health surveillance, where indicated by risk assessment

 

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
    • finding out what the health hazards are
    • undertake risk assessment, and implement measures to control risks to health
    • providing control measures to reduce harm to health
    • making sure they are used
    • keeping all control measures in good working order
    • providing information, instruction and training for employees
    • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases
    • planning for emergencies

Good management of occupational health and safety generally reflects a well-run business and is of benefit to everybody. There are sound legal, economic and moral reasons for looking after the health, safety and welfare of employees. If it is done well, the company meets its legal duties and avoids unnecessary ill health, accidents, additional costs, penalties and damage to the company’s reputation.

How Alcumus can help

Many organisations do not have the resource to keep abreast of health and safety legislation. Here at Alcumus we provide occupational hygiene advice and support to businesses of all sizes and types. We carry out monitoring surveys to look at exposures within the workplace for dusts (and any other contaminants) and can also undertake COSHH assessments. With qualified consultants and technical competence behind us, Alcumus can help fulfil the duty of care you owe to your employees.

Gary Broadley CMIOSH TIFireE OSCHR, Senior Health & Safety Consultant