National Asthma Awareness Week
With National Asthma Awareness Week upon us the health watchdog has warned British bakers that they could be at risk of developing a debilitating respiratory condition unless sensible precautions are taken.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), bakers are 80 times more likely to develop occupational asthma than the average British worker.
Unless precautions are taken, the HSE says exposure to flour and other bakery dusts can help to develop asthma leading to shortness of breath, wheezing and painful coughing.
To raise awareness to the risk it is sending bakeries copies of a pocket card containing advice for workers on what they can do themselves to protect their health.
Steve Coldrick, director of disease reduction at HSE, said: "Flour might seem harmless compared with chemicals used in other industries, but the truth is that unless it is handled correctly it can lead to serious health problems. In extreme cases sufferers of occupational asthma may not be able to return to work."
He added that by using the correct equipment and making simple changes to working procedures the hazard can be controlled and the condition avoided.
The HSE advises that by keeping bakeries clean and having minimum dust around exposure can be reduced.
It also advises bakers to handle flour carefully to avoid any dust clouds and to use high efficiency industrial vacuum cleaners for general cleaning.
Mark Allen, an from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "The incidence of bakers asthma in the UK is alarming. I welcome the HSE raising this issue and trust that bakeries and other employers act on the HSE's advice. At Irwin Mitchell we see too many examples of cases were the employer could have easily prevented employees developing this often debilitating condition."