Air pollution warning for site workers
The British Safety Council has called for air pollution to be recognised as an occupational health hazard for outdoor workers, including construction site workers.
The call follows the launch of its report, ‘Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’, which warned that air pollution is like with up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK and is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health.
Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. Ambient air pollution is linked to cancer, lung and heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infertility and early dementia.
Commenting in the report, Andrew Grieve, senior air quality analyst, King’s College London, said “As a group, outdoors workers are particularly vulnerable to long-term exposure to ambient air pollution. Within a workplace, the risk of people’s exposure to polluted air can be controlled using well-established methods, but this is more difficult for outdoor workers, many of whom work near or on busy roads.”
The British Safety Council urged the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to consider more regulation and guidance on air pollution.
In the report the British Safety Council is calling for:
- The UK to adopt the World Health Organisation’s exposure limits for the main pollutants;
- Government action to ensure ambient air pollution is treated as an occupational health issue and adopt a Workplace Exposure Limit for Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEE);
- Improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK, so that all regions can have the same accuracy in emissions data as London;
- Recognition that protection from the dangers of air pollution should be enshrined in law as a human right.
In March 2019, the British Safety Council launched its Time to Breathe campaign, which is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, the first mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it. It has been created in co-operation with King’s College London. Canairy draws on the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map at King’s and the worker’s GPS to calculate an individual’s exposure to pollution on an hourly basis.
Lawrence Waterman, chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “The impact of air pollution on people working in large cities is starting to be recognised as a major public health risk. However, we are yet to see any true commitment to addressing this issue by the government and the regulators.
“The Time to Breathe campaign, together with our recent report, is a call to action for policymakers, regulators and industry leaders. The social and economic implications of ambient air pollution are clear. It must be recognised as an occupational health hazard, much like some toxic substances such as asbestos. Breathing clean air is not a privilege but a basic human right for the thousands of people who are undertaking vital work outdoors.”