Uvex on the issues surrounding breathing protection
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.