Recognise air pollution as occupational health hazard

The British Safety Council has made the case for urgent action on the impact of air pollution on outdoor workers and urged the government to recognise air pollution as an occupational health hazard.

The Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers report, published by the British Safety Council, provides compelling evidence to recognise ambient air pollution as an occupational health hazard in Britain. In the report, the charity presents the demands that spearhead its campaign to limit the dangers of air pollution to the health of outdoor workers.

In March 2019, the British Safety Council launched its Time to Breathe campaign, which is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, created in co-operation with King’s College London, the first mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it.

In the new report the British Safety Council is calling for: the UK to adopt the World Health Organisation’s exposure limits for the main pollutants; government action to ensure ambient air pollution is treated as an occupational health issue and adopt a Workplace Exposure Limit for Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEE); improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK, so that all regions can have the same accuracy in emissions data as London; and recognition that protection from the dangers of air pollution should be enshrined in law as a human right.

Lawrence Waterman, chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “The impact of air pollution on people working in large cities is starting to be recognised as a major public health risk. However, we are yet to see any true commitment to addressing this issue by the government and the regulators.

“The Time to Breathe campaign, together with our recent report, is a call to action for policymakers, regulators and industry leaders. The social and economic implications of ambient air pollution are clear. It must be recognised as an occupational health hazard, much like some toxic substances such as asbestos. Breathing clean air is not a privilege but a basic human right for the thousands of people who are undertaking vital work outdoors.”

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