Charter calls on employers to curb workplace asthma

A workplace charter has been launched by the charity Asthma UK in an effort to reduce the impact of asthma among UK employees.

The charter was launched at the TUC conference last month and is aimed at employers, employees and health professionals. By signing up to the charter, employers pledge to develop policies on curbing the incidence of asthma in the workplace through developing smoke-free workplaces, preventing exposure to substances that can trigger asthma and offering employees training and advice on what to do in the event of an asthma attack.

Asthma UK chief executive Donna Covey said: “Forty per cent of workers with asthma have told us that things at work make their asthma worse and this shouldn’t be the case. It is outrageous that almost one million people in the UK are in a working environment that makes them sick.”

The charity also has an asthma attack card that employers can put in first-aid boxes.

Employers Centrica, Volvo, Northern Foods and London Underground have signed up.

The charity estimates that every year 750,000 employees with pre-existing asthma are exposed to something at work that triggers an attack, and about 3,000 people develop occupational asthma because of dangerous substances at work.

Government helps diagnosis

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidelines for doctors and other health professionals designed to help them identify the possible cause of asthma when diagnosing patients and to curb the spread of occupational asthmas.

The guidelines, produced in conjunction with the British Occupational Health Research Foundation, aim to help doctors and practice nurses recognise and report asthma cases where the disease may have been caused or exacerbated at work. Early identification of the cause is crucial when prescribing treatment and preventing long-term damage to the lungs, said the HSE.

Work is the cause for at least one in ten of all adults who suffer from asthma, with between 1,500 and 3,000 new cases each year, which will cost £1.16bn over the next 10 years, the HSE said.

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