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Workplace Pollution: What Are the Risks?

Posted on by phlorum

Air Pollution is the theme for World Environment Day, today on 5th June 2019

Indoor air monitoring

People can be exposed to a variety of substances at work which can lead to harmful health effects. Workplace Pollution is defined as the presence of hazardous materials such as chemicals, gases, vapours and fumes, dusts and fibres, and even noise. The main exposure routes are through breathing, direct contact, injection and swallowing.

Varying exposure to Workplace Pollution has led the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to set Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) for approximately 500 substances under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended).

In the UK, the most common type of workplace pollution is exposure to poor indoor air quality. However, there have been recent calls for the HSE to recognise ambient air pollution as an occupational health hazard for outdoor workers as well. Examples of indoor air pollutants include Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Asbestos, Formaldehyde, Ozone, Radon and fine Particulate Matter. Indoor air pollution can be caused by heating, ventilation, damp, chemicals in cleaning products and some building materials, finishes and furnishings.

The harmful effects of poor air quality have been frequently reported in the news. Research has linked air pollutants to health effects such as lung cancer and the worsening of respiratory diseases such as asthma. Recent research has also found air pollution to potentially be damaging to every cell and organ in the body. Specific to the workplace, many of us spend large amounts of time indoors where poor air quality has been linked to symptoms such as:

  • Dryness / irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin;
  • Headaches;
  • Fatigue;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Dizziness; and
  • Sinus congestion / irritation.

Air Quality Testing in the Workplace

It can be important to monitor pollutants in the air to reduce the onset of these symptoms and to ensure compliance with WELs or certification schemes such as BREEAM. The type of monitoring will depend on the nature of the workplace.

Phlorum has significant experience in monitoring many types of workplace air pollution. This includes:

  • Occupational exposure monitoring for comparison with WELs for a very wide range of industries (e.g. metal finishing, nail-bars, welding, aircraft maintenance, construction, coatings);
  • Investigating office workers’ complaints of poor indoor air quality and comfort levels (e.g. in relation to ‘Sick Building Syndrome’);
  • Monitoring of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at a range of work sites – particularly associated with contaminated land remediation;
  • Real-time monitoring of construction dust emissions; and
  • Indoor post-construction monitoring to assist clients seeking BREEAM Hea-O2 credits.

We also have experience in monitoring occupational exposure to radiation for the Oil and Gas sector.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help with your workplace and/or indoor pollution assessment needs, please contact us. We would be very happy to help.