Air pollution in the workplace - the manufacturing sector
The health and wellbeing of our country’s workforce has never been more important, especially for the hidden heroes working in the manufacturing sector. As all companies look to make workplaces COVID-19 secure, indoor air quality is rapidly climbing the boardroom agenda to minimise the spread of all kinds of respiratory health challenges.
What’s more, tackling indoor air pollution has proven business benefits. The CBI calculates that 3 million workdays lost to illness could be regained if air pollution levels are reduced to WHO recommended levels.
Air pollution impacts everyone, but those in the manufacturing industry are at greater risk as they are exposed to more dust, toxic particles and pollution in their workplace. With nearly three million people employed in the UK’s manufacturing sector, we must protect our essential workers who continue to keep our economy running.
- Poor air quality damages workers health - air pollution increases the risk of many health problems including heart attacks, cancer, lung function, and makes some existing health problems worse.
- Prolonged exposure - employees in the manufacturing sector typically work eight-hour shifts in environments that can have higher levels of air pollution than homes and offices.
- Air pollution has financial implications - it is responsible for six million sick days annually, impacts employee wellbeing and productivity, and also affects cleaning processes, equipment efficiency and product quality.
- Employers must protect their staff - legally, employers have a duty of care to improve air quality and protect employee health.
Why act on air pollution?
The World Health Organisation and the UK Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today. Poor air quality is responsible for 36,000 deaths a year in the UK and negatively impacts the health of the 12.7million people who live with long-standing respiratory conditions and 7.4million people living with heart and circulatory diseases.
Air pollution is pervasive, but its impacts on health are most notable as a consequence of prolonged exposure (REF). Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a range of health impacts, including damaging lung function, triggering asthma, increasing blood pressure, and increasing lung and heart related hospital admissions and deaths.
Studies have estimated that poor air quality contributes towards 19% of all cardiovascular deaths and 29% of all lung cancer deaths. Health conditions that are caused or worsened by air pollution - such as asthma, heart disease and COPD - can also make a person more vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19. Emerging evidence also suggests that air pollution is contributing to the number of COVID-19 cases by making those exposed to high levels of air pollution more susceptible to contracting the virus.
The Call to Action
This Whitepaper presents a renewed case for tackling air pollution in manufacturing industry workplaces as workers continue to be exposed to unhealthy levels of airborne hazards and pollution.
In line with the renewed findings, the paper further outlines recommended actions for policy makers, regulators and manufacturers to protect the health of vulnerable workers in the sector.
If you would like to learn more about tackling air pollution in the workplace, watch our virtual seminar: Every Breath We Make – Ensuring Healthy Air for Manufacturing. We have developed a short, digestible policy briefing series called Bitesize, which captures the key points raised in the White Paper. There are four in the series:
This Bitesize brief addresses the challenges of tackling workplace air pollution. It is the first of four within the Clean Air Workplaces Bitesize series, which supplements the White Paper, ‘With Every Breath We Make: Ensuring Healthy Air for Manufacturing Workers’
This Bitesize brief brings together a wealth of research on the health impact of air pollution in the general population and in workplace settings. It is the second of four within the Clean Air Workplaces Bitesize series, which supplements the White Paper, With Every Breath We Make: Ensuring Healthy Air for Manufacturing Workers
This Bitesize brief explains the current UK targets and regulations, alongside World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines (accurate as of October 2021), to address air pollution including in workplaces. It also covers the enforcement regimes in place to protect worker health.
Bitesize 4 considers solutions to address workplace indoor air pollution. It covers everything from required policy changes and increased regulatory enforcement, to practical measures that can be adopted in every workplace setting.