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September 2, 2011

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Guidance – Standards on dangerous dusts must be strengthened, says TUC

The TUC is calling for urgent action to address dust levels in the workplace in order to prevent thousands of deaths in the UK every year.

In new guidance issued today (2 September) the TUC cites scientific evidence, which suggests that the current UK exposure limits for inhalable and respirable dusts should be much lower. It also refers to research, which has shown that a considerable number of the cases of cancer and lung diseases caused by dusts come from exposure that is well below the current legal limit.

Consequently, it is seeking an urgent review of the legal standards, as well as greater enforcement of existing ones.

According to the HSE, some 12,000 deaths a year in the UK can be attributed to past exposure to respiratory agents – including dusts. Those often found in the workplace include silica, coal dust, flour and grain, talc and kaolin. Diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by inhaling them include cancer, asbestosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, silicosis and pneumoconiosis.

The TUC says its view is supported by the Institute of Medicine (IoM), which it quotes as saying: “The current British occupational exposure limits for airborne dust are unsafe, and employers should attempt to reduce exposures to help prevent further cases of respiratory disease amongst their workers.”

TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, commented: “Because disease and death caused by the various types of dust can take many years to develop, both employers and regulators take them far less seriously than deaths caused by injury, yet they are just as tragic for both the workers and their families.€

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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