Asthma risk in British bakeries
Thousands of British bakers could be at risk of developing a debilitating respiratory condition unless they take sensible precautions, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned.
Bakers are about 80 times more likely to develop occupational asthma than the average British worker.
Workers exposed to flour and other bakery dusts can develop asthma unless sensible precautions are taken. Shortness of breath, wheezing and painful coughing are just some of the symptoms that occupational asthma suffers may have to deal with every day.
To mark World Asthma Day – Tuesday 5 May – HSE is sending bakeries copies of a pocket card containing advice for workers on what they can do themselves to protect their health. The card gives examples of good working practices.
HSE estimates that some 27,000 of the 100,000 workers in the British baking industry will regularly be working with flour as an ingredient.
Steve Coldrick, the Director of Disease Reduction at HSE, said:
“Flour might seem harmless compared with chemicals used in other industries, but the truth is that unless it is handled correctly it can lead to serious health problems. In extreme cases sufferers of occupational asthma may not be able to return to work.
“By using the correct equipment and making simple changes to working procedures this condition is entirely preventable.”
British bakers are one of the groups most at risk of developing occupational asthma, with around 100 new cases being diagnosed each year.
Exposure to flour and bakery dust should be kept to a minimum and ensuring good house keeping will help keep this in check, HSE advises. Other key recommendations include:
- Handle flour and powdered products carefully. Dropping flour from a height or throwing with force will create dust clouds.
- Use sprinklers to spread dusting flour rather than hand throwing.
- Clean up spillages immediately. Do not use airlines or brushes to dry sweep dust. Use high efficiency industrial vacuum cleaners for general cleaning. Shovel up large amounts gently.
- Take care to avoid raising dust while loading ingredients into mixers.
- Start up mixers on slow speed until wet and dry ingredients are combined.
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