New Findings Spark Call for Workplace Air Pollution Guidance

THE BRITISH Safety Council has welcomed new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on how to avoid overheating while working in hot conditions.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “The British Safety Council welcomes the HSE guidance on working in hot weather. However, similar guidance is needed in relation to outdoor workers who, as well as by heat, are affected by air pollution, particularly in Britain’s largest cities.

“This issue is relevant not only today but for many years to come as weather in Britain appears to be permanently affected by climate change. Outdoor workers need to be protected from air pollution in hot weather more than any other group of workers. That’s why we need this advice now. We cannot fail them as we have done in relation to asbestos, which continues to cause harm and mount up the health bill.”

According to new findings by environmental charity Hubbub, outdoor workers are not only more prone to skin cancer caused by UV radiation, but they are also amongst the most vulnerable professional groups in relation to air pollution.

In March, the British Safety Council launched the Time to Breathe campaign to draw attention to what needs to be done to reduce workers’ exposure and to reduce emissions. The campaign also launched Canairy, a free mobile app designed to protect outdoor workers from pollution exposure.

Canairy draws on the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map at King’s College London and the worker’s GPS to calculate a user’s exposure to pollution on an hourly basis. Once the exposure exceeds World Health Organisation’s (WHO) limits for the concentration of nitrogen dioxide, particulates and ozone, the app notifies the user and suggests tips to reduce their exposure.

The British Safety Council is now calling on its members, as well as other organisations and individuals, to write to their local MPs requesting:

  • The government to immediately recognise exposure to ambient air pollution as an occupational health hazard.
  • The government to invest in improved pollution monitoring across the UK. Reducing exposure requires detailed pollution measurements and all UK regions have the right to the same accuracy in emissions data as London.
  • The UK to adopt the WHO’s exposure guidelines for nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and ozone.
  • Employers to act to both reduce the exposure of their staff and to minimise their companies’ emissions of pollution

Download the letter template here.

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