Research reveals 50% of RPE users may still be breathing in harmful substances
Every year 30,000 UK workers suffer from breathing or lung problems and 12,000 people die from long latency respiratory illnesses because of exposure to harmful substances at work. The correct respiratory protective equipment (RPE), correctly used and correctly fitted, can prevent the vast majority of these deaths. However research has uncovered that up to 50% of industry workers could still be breathing in harmful substances every single day while at work.
For businesses, the health and safety of employees is paramount, especially those operating in high-hazard industries. Not only do businesses have a duty of care to their employees, but they also need to protect themselves from the financial consequences. Failure to place workforce wellbeing as a top priority could have serious ramifications, including large fines and even imprisonment.
In an ideal situation, workers should not be exposed to any potentially dangerous substances, however, this is not always possible and so respiratory protection should be provided. However, recent research has revealed that half of the RPE provided to UK workers isn’t offering adequate protection due to a number of factors including incorrect specification, inadequate training, poor maintenance and lack of regular fit testing. This failing is leaving employees exposed to hazardous material that could lead to long-term illness.
To ensure businesses provide a safe working environment, before supplying appropriate RPE to employees, a risk assessment should have taken place to identify harmful substances in the workplace. This assessment will allow employers to introduce measures to reduce the risk certain hazards pose. By going through the risk assessment process required by law, a business can determine whether the use of RPE is necessary.
Some employers see investing in new RPE and training programmes as a cost. However 2016 saw 25.9 million working days lost due to work-related illness, which cost the UK’s economy £9.3 billion. The HSE estimates that a worker who is absent from work for more than seven days due to ill health will cost the employer £8,000 on average.
Knowing how to use RPE is just as important as wearing it in the first place, so it’s vital employers place the same emphasis on training as they do on procurement. For expert advice on keeping your workforce and business safe, please visit: www.arco.co.uk/ArcoRPE