Employers’ asthma wake-up call

Too little is being done to prevent occupational asthma and employers must
address the problem

Asthma could cost employers £3bn over the next decade because they are
refusing to substitute asthma-inducing products with safer ones, warns the TUC.

Employers are continuing to be forced to pay out billions of pounds in lost
staff days, lower productivity and high compensation payouts as a result, it
added.

The study, published in its Risks Health and Safety bulletin, highlights the
NHS as one of the worst offenders, particularly over the continued use in some
hospitals of powdered latex gloves which have been blamed for causing
allergies.

Nearly 1,000 safety reps were surveyed, who reported that only 8 per cent of
employers were substituting asthma-causing substances with safer alternatives.

The most common preventive tool used was respiratory protective equipment,
which should be the last thing employers reach for when protecting their
workforce, said the TUC.

It estimated there were more than 150,000 people in the UK with occupational
asthma, with between 1,500 and 7,000 adults developing asthma because of their
work every year.

Workers were most commonly exposed to glues and resins, wood dust and latex.
Other common substances they were exposed to included isocyanates (widely used
as a bonding agent, in spray paints, for instance), solder/colophony, flour and
grain and the disinfectant glutaraldehyde.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said: "Too many employers seem to
think that asthma won’t cost them any money because the NHS will pay for
treatment – but the NHS itself is an employer that loses millions by not
controlling asthma at work, and they are currently part of the problem, not
part of the solution.

"Employers need to wake up and stop their workers suffering
needlessly," he said.

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