Manufacturing workers are still being exposed to dangerous levels of air pollutants in the workplace, a new white paper has cautioned.
The whitepaper, from Global Action Plan and Zehnder Clean Air Solutions, finds the quality of the air in the manufacturing sector continues to be underplayed and not acted upon with workers in the UK still being exposed to unhealthy levels of airborne hazards and pollution.
It further presents a renewed case for tackling air pollution in industry workplaces with urgent actions for policy makers, regulators and manufacturers.
According to the findings, an estimated 440,000 workers with health conditions that are exacerbated by air pollution are still being exposed to unhealthy levels of airborne hazards and pollution in manufacturing workplaces.
The presence of airborne hazards causes production issues, product quality and that impacts profit margins.
Current regulation allows levels of airborne hazards and pollution that are dangerous to manufacturing workers’ health. Worryingly, it found that regulation enforcement is not meeting the necessary standards.
Urgent action is required to protect workers who are unable to work remotely given increasing evidence shows that poor air quality worsens underlying health conditions that make a person more vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19 and workers in the manufacturing sector are at greater risk of being exposed to dust, toxic particles and pollution.
The most urgent action from the whitepaper, which is supported by the Trade Unions Clean Air Network (TUCAN) and the Hazards campaign, is to call on the government to update regulation to lower the acceptable limits for air pollutants in the industrial workplace, echoing the call from the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) that limits be changed to 1mg/m3 for respirable dust from the current 4mg/m3 COSHH trigger.
In addition to the government call, the whitepaper further advises that regulators review exposure limits of all air pollutants, beyond current regulation and in line with new research which finds that airborne hazards can cause health conditions including heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, cognitive function, and depression.
This includes launching long-term research programmes which combine air quality monitoring in manufacturing sites with tracking of workforce health issues.
Manufacturers are also urged to review the business case for action on air pollution, with help from the authorities and adopt measures to eliminate airborne pollution.