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Respiratory masks: time to take deep breath

08 July 2013

Millions of workers across all industries are risking their long-term health by wearing respiratory masks that are not fit for purpose according to a warning from workplace equipment supplier Slingsby

Common occupational related respiratory problems include asthma, pneumoconiosis and silicosis. Plus growing numbers of asbestos related illnesses are being diagnosed every year and the HSE expects deaths from mesothelioma, which is a common cancer caused by asbestos, to continue rising in the coming years.

By law an employer must carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of any hazardous work environments and provide respiratory protection for anyone who is exposed to dust, mist, fumes, vapours, gas or environments where oxygen levels could be higher or lower than normal.

Lee Wright, Marketing Director at Slingsby, explains: “Respiratory problems are still a major problem across lots of industries and can affect everyone from care workers to bakery staff and beauticians to farmers.

“Plus even today there are huge numbers of workers still exposed to all kinds of cancer causing substances such as silica, diesel exhaust fumes and chemicals. Asbestos is also a major danger and even though it was banned in 1999 it is still found in millions of buildings.”

Lee adds: “Employees very rarely check that the masks they wear offer sufficient protection against the hazards they’re exposed to and this is putting their long term health at risk. Although disposable masks often look very similar they can vary greatly and offer very different levels of protection.

“There are three main classifications that offer low, medium and high filtering and different categories depending on individual hazards which can include brick dust, concrete, ferros metal fumes, fibreglass, lead fumes, MDF, mineral fibres, plaster, rockwool, sandstone, silica, welding as well as soft and hard wood. With so much variation it’s vital that both employees and employers double-check they’re using the right masks for the job they’re doing.”

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