Respiratory Hazards and Occupational Respiratory Disease
Respiratory hazards usually arise from exposure to substances hazardous to health which are small enough to be inhaled or breathed in, such as dust, fume, spores, or bacteria. Rarely, substances absorbed through the skin can also be hazardous to the respiratory system.
Exposure can cause occupational respiratory disease. This is a term which covers a group of different respiratory conditions which affect your lungs in different ways. They include:
- occupational asthma;
- extrinsic allergic alveolitis;
- allergic rhinitis;
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
- lung cancer
- acute and chronic bronchitis;
- paranasal sinus cancer
- mucous membrane irritation.
It is important to ensure that you manage these hazards so that the risk to health is eliminated or reduced so far as reasonably practicable. Respirable hazards are usually (but not always!) identified on the manufacturer’s data hazard sheet but should always be identified in your COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) assessments.
Exposure monitoring may be required to determine the extent of the risk. Specialist advice may also be required if you are using small (or large!) amounts of different chemicals within a process as the chemicals may interact with each other to create another risk.
If there is a residual risk to health following the implementation of your safe systems of work, respiratory health surveillance is required as per Regulation 11 of the COSHH Regulations 2002.
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