Tighter Controls Needed When Dealing With Dust In The Workplace Lawyer Says

Workplace Injury Experts Respond To New Guidance

22.03.2013

By Helen MacGregor

Workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed new guidance published by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) which advises employers to take a precautionary approach when carrying out risk assessments for dust under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation s2002 (COSHH).

Precautions are recommended even if the dust consists of low toxicity and is not currently at the specified workplace exposure limit. Research indicates that if careful measures are not taken into account, exposure could lead to various illnesses including asthma, asbestosis, skin conditions as well as other respiratory problems.

The BOHS research has revealed increasing evidence that exposure to dust of particle sizes below current 4mg/m3 and 10 mg/m3 thresholds may still prove hazardous and should be incorporated within a catch all category under COSHH. 

There are many industries in which exposure to dust is a continuing problem including the mining industries, quarries, textiles, faming and agriculture, carpentry and joinery, bakeries, mills and the construction industry.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist workplace illness team welcomes the publication of the research.

Industrial disease specialist Alex Shorey, who is based at the national law firm’s Birmingham office, represents workers who have suffered health problems as a result of occupational exposure to dust in the workplace.

Commenting on the guidance, Alex said: “I strongly endorse the views of the BOHS, particularly with regards to the advice given to employers.

“It is essential that until safe limits are put in place and employers must keep the respirable dust to the lowest possible level, thereby minimising the risk of injury and illness to staff. This may be achieved simply by providing adequate protective equipment and implementing a system of health surveillance.

“With adequate safety precautions in place and sufficient warnings given to employees, many of these respiratory illnesses could be avoided. Unfortunately here at Irwin Mitchell we come across many cases in which individuals suffer from respiratory diseases which may otherwise had been avoided had a comprehensive risk assessment been carried out.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to workplace illness