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    Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Workplace Occupational Health

    Published on November 21st, 2022 | by Sophie West

    Lung Cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the UK. It’s also difficult to spot the symptoms early on, so it’s important to know what to look out for and how you can reduce the risk of getting it. As a business, it is important to know your duties and do your due diligence. Employers need to provide surveillance to demonstrate that they are meeting their duty of care for their employees.

    Relevant legislation:

    Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) states that employers have a general duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all their employees. Health surveillance is about having procedures in place to detect work-related ill-health at an early stage and acting on the results (HSE, 2005).

    Also, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, require employers to control exposures to hazardous substances to protect employees’ health. Employers must assess the exposure and the risk that this exposure would cause undue health effects, for example, employees being exposed to chemicals that can cause harm by either inhaling hazardous chemicals, or contact via the skin, or even swallowing.

    So, what are spirometry tests and what do I need them for?

    According to The Society of Occupational Medicine, around 1.7 million UK workers suffered from a work related illness in 2021, which accounts to a £10.6 billion cost for businesses.

    Spirometry tests are lung function tests aimed at distinguishing any premature impairment to the lungs instigated by exposure to respiratory sensitisers and other substances which have the potential to cause serious ill health.

    For example, silicosis may be caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the stone-cutting industry.

    Employers have a duty to reduce, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risks to the health and safety of employees and others who may be affected by work activity. This is done by identifying hazards, assessing the risks and completing risk assessments.

    A robust health surveillance programme aims to prevent ill health rather than cure it.

    What substances can cause occupational lung disease?

    Substances that can cause occupational lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or occupational asthma normally trigger a health surveillance requirement. Example substances that may increase your risk of developing occupational lung disease include:

    • Dust particles
    • Chemicals
    • Fungal spores
    • Animal droppings
    • Silica dust
    • Welding fumes
    • Vapors
    Common activities that cause respiratory problems:
    • Vehicle spray painting, foam manufacturing
    • Handling grain at docks, milling, malting, baking
    • Soldering, electronic assembly
    • Laboratory animal work
    • Saw-milling, woodworking
    • Curing of epoxy resins
    How common is workplace air pollution?

    As stated by COPD, workplace air pollution is not unusual – around 30% to 40% of people have worked in a job where they were exposed to some type of air pollution. Not all types of workplace air pollution can cause COPD. However, between 15% and 20% of COPD cases are caused by workplace air pollution.

    For about 30% of people with COPD who have never smoked, their disease was caused by workplace air pollution. People who smoke and work in a place with polluted air have an even higher risk of COPD. This is because their lungs are damaged by both tobacco smoke and air pollution.

    The HSE also released statistics on work-related ill health and occupational disease in Great Britain, stating that 12,000 lung disease deaths each year were estimated to be linked to past exposures at work, with 1.7 million workers suffering from work-related ill health (new or long-standing) in 2020/21.

    Agility Risk & Compliance can help you manage your lung function (spirometry) testing  requirements by carrying out the testing for your employees. These can be part of a health surveillance program or standalone spirometry testing. Contact our team on 01527 571611 to discuss your requirements or for any further workplace spirometry testing advice.

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    Contact Agility R&C

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    If you have an enquiry please call us on 01527 571611 or email us on

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