Controlling exposures to prevent occupational lung disease in industry

Control exposure and breathe freely


Occupational hygiene is about recognising, evaluating and controlling risks to health in the workplace.  Occupational hygienists have the knowledge and skills to help you protect your employees. Let’s get going by deciding to manage health like safety.


The downloadable pdf below gives a condensed summary of the issues and potential solutions and shows how we can instigate the change to a contract for health.


BOHS launches new HI Standard self-assessment tool for construction in a bid to help managers raise the bar on health


Press release: 27th April 2016

BOHS, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, has launched a new version of its Health in Industry (HI) Management Standard, designed to set out exactly what “good” looks like in managing workplace health risks, with the latest edition of the tool now offering a unique level of support for managers and their organisations.

In April 2015, BOHS launched Breathe Freely, a collaborative initiative primarily aimed at tackling the incidence of occupational lung disease in the construction industry.

The goal of Breathe Freely is to raise awareness of the problem but more importantly, provide real solutions.


Read the full article here>>

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Raising the bar on health in construction – the way forward

Press release: 4th March 2015

BOHS, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, has urged construction managers to join a diverse group of experts as they map out the way forward to better health in the construction sector at a one-day conference on 27 April 2016 in Glasgow, whilst giving a boost to a brilliant charity for sick and injured construction workers and their families.

Running as part of the Society’s Breathe Freely campaign aimed at controlling exposures to prevent occupational lung disease in the construction industry, this not-to-be-missed event will take place at The Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.

The event is also being used to support the Lighthouse Club, a fantastic charity which provides emergency financial aid to families in the construction industry community during times of crisis following an illness, accident, injury or bereavement. The Charity is celebrating it’s 60th year and to mark this,  BOHS is designating 27 April 2016 as its very own ‘Lighthouse Day’, and has committed to donating £10 from every booking for the Glasgow conference to the Lighthouse Club Benevolent Fund.


Read the full article here>>

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Call to eliminate occupational cancer –
why the construction sector is crucial


Press release: 14th October 2015

A new paper calling for European and international collaboration to eliminate occupational cancer has important implications for the construction industry, as the sector with the largest number of occupational cancer cases, the majority of which are caused by breathing in carcinogenic substances.

The appeal for a more ambitious target for occupational cancer has been backed by BOHS and the Chartered Society for worker health protection says the construction industry has a crucial role to play in this regard, as illustrated by the following statistics.

• At least 8,000 cancer deaths and around 13,500 cases of cancer can be attributed each year to past occupational exposure but of all the industry sectors, it is the construction industry that accounts for the largest proportion (over 40%) of these cancer deaths and registrations.

• Over 5,500 construction workers develop cancer each year and 3,500 former construction workers die of the disease, as a result of occupational exposures.

• The majority of these cases of cancer are caused by breathing in carcinogenic substances: the most significant carcinogens in the construction sector are past exposure to asbestos (69%), followed by silica (17%), painting and diesel engine exhaust fumes (6-7% each).

The call to eliminate occupational cancer was made in a new working paper entitled Eliminating Occupational Cancer in Europe and Globally, written by Professor Jukka Takala, former Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) and published by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).


Read the full article here>>

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Silicosis must be stopped says BOHS,
as HSE releases powerful new video

Press release: 9th September 2015

BOHS has urged the construction industry to take decisive action to stop workers being exposed to silica dust, following the release by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of powerful new video testimony from a silicosis sufferer. see the video here >

During the video footage, Terry, a former stone mason who is now suffering from the debilitating lung disease silicosis, tells his compelling story to Dr David Fishwick, Chief Medical Officer at the Health and Safety Laboratory.

Terry describes how, despite years of fitness training and involvement in karate at the highest level, he has been left facing silicosis, with devastating personal effects, when he should have been in the prime of his life.

In the video, Terry describes “intense” work with stone dust in a small area, creating the conditions, in his own words, for “disaster”.

Dr Fishwick says it is clear from the description of Terry’s working life that he has been exposed to significant amounts of stone dust, particularly in the last few years of his working life where he worked with sandstone containing 90% crystalline silica.

Responding to the release of the video and in support of its Breathe Freely campaign for the prevention of occupational lung disease in the construction industry, BOHS has shared the following key facts and figures about silicosis:


  • Recognised since ancient times, silicosis is one of the oldest, yet most debilitating, occupational diseases and is caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) - tiny dust particles which can be breathed into the deepest regions of the lung where they can cause serious damage.
  • Today, the disease represents one of the most important health risks facing construction workers, with the tiny particles of crystalline silica produced during many common construction activities, such as cutting, blasting or drilling of granite, sandstone, slate, brick or concrete.
  • Over 500 workers are believed to die from exposure to silica dust every year in the UK construction industry.
  • It usually takes many years of exposure to silica dust before silicosis symptoms start but regular, repeated exposure to RCS can lead to silicosis, as well as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as bronchitis and emphysema.
  • The UK has an RCS standard which requires that exposure must be below the level of 0.1 milligrams of respirable dust per cubic metre,  averaged over eight hours, but it is believed there is widespread non-compliance with the standard and even this limit is not "safe” - an estimated 2.5% of workers exposed to this concentration for only 15 years go on to develop silicosis.

In a statement, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection appealed for decisive action on silicosis in the construction industry.

Mike Slater, a Chartered Occupational Hygienist and the immediate past President of BOHS,  “We are concerned that the respirable crystalline silica standard is not being adhered to within industry and as a result workers are being exposed to dangerous levels of RCS. There needs to be greater awareness that for most of the common operations where workers are at risk from exposure to silica, there are control measures available that are usually relatively straight forward to implement. For example, the simple fitting of water suppression or extraction systems to tools can make all the difference, as can different work processes, such as vacuuming instead of dry sweeping.”

He added, “Six months into our Breathe Freely campaign, we have been absolutely delighted with the level of support the initiative has received. Now, we want the momentum generated by Breathe Freely to translate into real action in the construction sector, to stop the incurable but entirely preventable disease of silicosis.”

see the video here >


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Breathe Freely with BOHS and help prevent lung disease in construction workers

Press release: 28th April 2015

It’s no secret that construction workers are at high risk of contracting lung disease from the work that they do. In 2015, approximately 3,500 will die from cancer caused by past exposures to asbestos, 500 more from silica dust, another 5,500 will be diagnosed with occupational cancer, and – today alone - an unknown but significant number will breathe in the hazardous substances that will one day debilitate or kill them.

What is less well known is that there’s a solution: most of these industrial diseases can be prevented – by recognising the real hazards, evaluating the risks of being exposed to them, and then effectively controlling those exposures (also known as good occupational hygiene practice).

Breathe Freely and take control

Breathe Freely is a collaborative initiative, led by BOHS in partnership with Constructing Better Health, Land Securities, Mace and the Health and Safety Executive [HSE], which aims to help prevent lung disease in construction workers. Targeted specifically at managers and site supervisors within the construction industry, the aim is not just to raise awareness of the problem but also to effect action by providing practical solutions through sharing of best practice and encouraging implementation of effective exposure control.

Launching the initiative on Worker Memorial Day, Tuesday 28th April 2015, distinguished speakers included Clive Johnson, Group Head of Health and Safety for Land Securities, Lawrence Waterman OBE, Managing Partner at Park Health and Safety Services, Professor David Fishwick, Consultant Respiratory Physician and HSL’s Chief Medical Officer, and Mike Slater, President of BOHS.

Breathe Feely is about providing the information, resources and signposting to the advice and expertise that we know is needed.

  • If managers want to know what “good” looks like and what standards need to be met, we’ll be encouraging sign-up to the HI Standard, our Worker Health Protection management standard. Developed specifically for the construction industry, this sets out good practice for managing health risks, to help raise standards and keep them high.
  • To help spread best practice we have developed a series of case studies and data sheets. We have 20 fact sheets each highlighting the main hazards, highest risks and preferred control options for all the key construction trades.  We’ve put occupational hygiene into a construction site context so it’s clear where and how an occupational hygienist can help.  And we have real on-site case studies showing actual situations and solutions.
  • For practical help, there will be a toolkit for managers, available to coincide with a one day industry conference taking place on 10th November at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham. The toolkit will include COSHH and PPE guidance, an audit checklist, performance indicators and a toolbox talk.
  • And for anyone who still needs convincing, we have evidence that good occupational hygiene is good for business and the right thing to do:  our Good Business Case sets it all out clearly.

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