Understanding the risks from exposure and how to control these, including Respiratory Protective Equipment
Work processes may involve the use of a variety of chemicals and substances that can create fumes, dusts and other substances.
Breathing in hazardous substances at work can put your employees' health at risk and may cause a range of respiratory diseases and conditions from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancers. It can also cause other diseases of the airways and lungs, for example airway obstruction, bronchitis or lung cancers. As well as this, it can cause cancer in other parts of the body, nervous system diseases and disorders of reproductive organs.
Use the links below to find information and resources on how to assess the risks to breathing, the equipment you can use and your legal duties.
If a job involves using potentially harmful substances, there are a few measures you can put in place to reduce or remove harm.
Other precautions you can take include
Some dusts will have a
Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) assigned to them, which means they are particularly hazardous to health and exposure needs to be tightly controlled; this can only be determine through monitoring.
In some situations you will have a legal duty to undertake Occupational Hygiene monitoring. For example, air sampling or personal dosimetry or sampling the individual breathing zone (personal dosimetry). This is to make sure that control measures you put in place are effective, or carry out
health surveillance on workers where exposures may not be fully controlled.
A person becoming sensitised to a substance or materials in the workplace can have devastating effects. It may make it impossible for them to continue to work with the product concerned. Symptoms vary depending on which part of the body is affected.
Initial symptoms can be similar to hayfever - runny, itching eyes and nose. These may be followed by more severe symptoms typical of asthma such as
Symptoms can occur on first exposure to the substance. Most cases of sensitisation occur within the first few months but sensitisation can also occur many years after first exposure.
Other significant aspects of sensitisation are
You can find more information on precautions to protect breathing in our publication, Health risks at work.
For more information you can also visit the
Construction Dust Partnership site.
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For information on workplace health, safety and wellbeing, contact your local health board team