Workplace Respiratory Disease – The Facts

All professional workplaces are subject to numerous workplace health laws, which have been designed and constantly improved upon to safeguard the employees of the company and ensure that everyone is protected from various diseases and injury as much as possible. However, one particular type of risk in the workplace that needs to be talked about is workplace respiratory diseases, which can come in various forms and pose a serious threat to the health of an employee.

What is a workplace respiratory disease?

To begin with, it’s important to understand precisely what a workplace respiratory disease is. Put simply, a respiratory disease in the workplace is caused by exposure to a harmful substance while in the workplace, which then affects the respiratory system in a dangerous and often serious way. There are numerous different types of respiratory diseases which can be contracted inside the workplace. The most dangerous and sadly one of the most common diseases is lung cancer, which can be caused by exposure to things like asbestos, diesel engine exhaust emissions, and the substance known as silica, which can take the form of gel, but that is less likely to be harmful to employees if handled with care and disposed of correctly.

What other diseases can be contracted in the workplace?

A long term and potentially life-threatening disease that can be contracted in the workplace is known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, abbreviated to COPD. This is a disease where the lung tissue is damaged, and the air passages which allow air into the lungs become inflamed over time, which steadily reduces the amount of air which can pass into the body. Common variations of this disease can include chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and these types of diseases can all be induced by a range of gases, or powder type substances which have become airborne. Dust and fumes have also been known to contribute directly to this kind of respiratory disease and cause extremely low workplace health.

Another type of respiratory disease occupational health problem is caused by exposure to harmful substances specifically in the workplace. An example of this is occupational asthma, which is something that occurs in adults who have had no prior issues with the condition but have begun displaying symptoms as a result of being exposed to substances while in the workplace, and thus have had their lungs damaged, sometimes irreparably.

Overall, the risk posed by workplace respiratory diseases is a very real and concerning problem that can be faced in many different workplaces. As the employer, it is your job to ensure that all employees have the correct protective equipment to help combat the risks of contracting any of the diseases listed, but it’s important to remember there are others that are equally dangerous that have not been mentioned here.

Health surveillance of staff exposed to hazards in the workplace will detect any employee who could be developing symptoms which may be attributable to their job role or working environment. This early detection means that the problem can be effectively treated or prevented, and any issues be addressed in the workplace before they become a significant problem.

Further Resources

British Lung Foundation

European Lung Foundation

HSE Lung Disease