Are there contaminants in the air you breathe at work that can make you ill? When airborne pollutants and hazardous substances are present in marked concentrations, persons exposed to them can suffer chronic illnesses.
Your employer is responsible for implementing measures to reduce or remove the risk and provide proper protection from a respiratory protective equipment supplier.
Air contaminants that can ruin your day
Is the air you breathe at work characterised by a particular smell? Is smoke or ash always present? The list of airborne contaminants includes volatile chemicals such as chloroform and benzene, silica and other particulates, and toxic metal dusts.
Some contaminants are less hazardous but may still cause allergies and other problems with the respiratory system. If your workplace produces or works with chemical substances, or is industrial in nature, a handful of contaminants would always be present.
For some, the presence of overlapping exposures poses a grave risk. When overall exposures are not permissible disaster could strike at any moment, and the next victim could very well be you.
The cost of unfettered air pollution at the workplace
Overexposure to dust and other airborne particulates cause death or permanent disability in many countries yearly. Aside from the human cost, the presence of contaminants in the air may compromise product quality and bring to the market items for consumption that are not safe to use or ingest.
Some chemicals are highly reactive even in small doses. Because of the escape of certain gases in the air, a particular work environment could be at high risk for explosion and fire. Combustible dust could be in contact with an ignition agent and cause a conflagration without warning.
If you are working in a place where these dangers are present at all times, your employer must ensure measures are being implemented to lower the hazards and prevent suffering. Many of the issues that arise from air contamination can be avoided if only proper measures are in place.
Where you are most exposed
Take into consideration the risks you are exposed to every day. If you are working with processes or in environments that put your health and wellbeing at risk, you should be aware. What are the different types of settings that expose workers to dust and other pollutants more than others?
On top of the list is quarrying and mining, followed by construction, foundries, abrasive blasting, removal of paint, glass etching, and ceramic and glass manufacturing. Also on the list are agricultural work, animal husbandry, food processing and works that involve transport of fragile materials and handling of powdered chemicals.
Watching over your health
Some effects of air contamination do not show immediately. It takes repeated exposure for certain agents to cause damage. Whether slow or fast-acting, some of the changes they cause the human body are permanent, which alter one’s state of health gravely.
Some problems are treatable, but others may not have a cure. Employers must provide the necessary personal protective equipment to ensure contaminants in the air are filtered out.
Awareness of hazards must be part of employee orientation, and preventative measure must be implemented and monitored carefully.