Protecting construction workers from the effects of air pollution

The British Safety Council has launched a campaign for air pollution to be officially recognised as an occupational health hazard for construction workers and others who worked outdoors.

Through our work with our clients, working closely with developers at every stage of the construction process, the Advantage team sees first-hand how hard companies work to protect workers’ safety on site.

However, as we become increasingly aware of the health implications posed by air pollution, the British Safety Council is calling for more to be done to protect construction workers from the hidden danger of poor air quality.

As reported by The Construction Index:

“The British Safety Council has launched a campaign for air pollution to be officially recognised as an occupational health hazard for construction workers and others who worked outdoors.

“Air pollution is linked with up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK. It is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health. Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. Ambient air pollution is linked to cancer, lung and heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infertility and early dementia.

“The British Safety Council has launched a report ‘Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’ which provides 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 the same week that The Construction Index issued their stark warning about the impact of pollution on construction workers’ health, a number of national and regional news outlets suggested that tackling air pollution must be one of our most pressing priorities in terms of safeguarding public health.

The Metro stated:

“The World Health Organisation has called air pollution a ‘public health emergency’, with more than 90% of the global population enduring toxic outdoor air. According to scientists, air pollution causes nearly 8.8 million deaths each year, making it a bigger killer than tobacco smoking.

“‘Air pollution can harm acutely, as well as chronically, potentially affecting every organ in the body,’ conclude the scientists from the Forum of International Respiratory Societies in the review published by Chest. The review added: ‘Ultrafine particles pass through the lungs, are readily picked up by the cells, and carried via the bloodstream to expose virtually all cells in the body.’ Professor Dean Schraufnagel from the University of Illinois at Chicago, who led the review said: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if almost every organ was affected.’ Children are especially vulnerable to pollution in the air, as their bodies are developing, resulting in stunted lungs.”

As reported by The Construction Index, The British Safety Council is calling for a number of changes to provide better safeguards for construction workers working outdoors. They are calling for:

  1. The UK to adopt the World Health Organisation’s exposure limits for the main pollutants
  2. 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)
  3. Improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK, so that all regions can have the same accuracy in emissions data as London
  4. Recognition that protection from the dangers of air pollution should be enshrined in law as a human right.

Chairman of the British Safety Council is Lawrence Waterman, former head of health and safety for the London Olympic Delivery Authority and for Battersea Power Station. He 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.”

In other construction news: Construction pay continues to rise nationwide.

Want to learn more? Contact one of our relationship managers today to discuss your requirements on 0845 900 3969

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Advantage Home Construction Insurance (AHCI) provides structural defects insurance – operating nationally with offices in Warrington, London and Birmingham – offering development-related insurances and a service designed to give customers peace of mind.

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