Occupational lung disease (OLD) is the top cause of work-related illnesses in America in terms of frequency, preventability, and severity. In most industrial workplaces, dust and other small particles pose health risks for workers. Exposure to these pollutants is linked to a variety of pulmonary and systemic illnesses. About 5 million workers in 1.3 million workplaces in the country are required to wear respirators, but even this protective equipment is not enough.
Preventing occupational lung disease requires improving the workplace and ensuring it adheres to industry standards. Here are a few steps to get started right with OLD prevention:
Containing and Airing Out
DualDraw.com explains that proper ventilation and containment are essential in preventing OLD. Downdraft tables and booths, walk-in clear stations, and other air filtration solutions work to contain airborne contaminants before these can spread and reach a worker’s breathing zone.
Containment can also come in the form of physical barriers, e.g., putting your production processes inside a ‘box’ with ventilation and exhaust systems.
Nipping at the Bud
Manage the problem at the source, which may include the production process, the hazardous substance itself, or the work practices.
Production processes can be improved by using techniques and equipment that generate less dust. You can also change the process so that the hazardous substance is no longer needed, or find a substitute that is less hazardous.
It is also ideal to find ways of reducing dust generation. In most industrial workplaces, using a wet method is ideal as this is more likely to cause less dust exposure than a dry method.
Companies should consider all plans to avoid or minimize exposure through other methods before resorting to personal protective equipment (PPE). Respiratory protective equipment such as respirators are often uncomfortable to wear for long periods, which might then affect efficiency.
Other problems with PPE are their fallibility and eco-friendliness. The equipment may not provide the assumed protection and these do not offer environmental protection. Uncontrolled airborne dust may still spread and affect people working nearby.
While OLD is common and may come from various airborne contaminants, it is also preventable. Manage the risk at all possible situations and sources, and you’ll greatly improve worker health and workplace production.