The Clean Air programme is our first targeted intervention on work-related health. Its goal is to reduce the risk of respiratory ill-health caused by exposure to airborne contaminants in the workplace.
A key part of the Clean Air programme is to raise awareness of the health risks of silica dust, organic solvents, welding fumes, wood dust, carbon monoxide and agrichemicals and how they can be eliminated or controlled.
Inspectors have been trained on these airborne contaminants and are supporting workplaces to control these risks.
What can businesses do?
Eliminate airborne contaminants from the workplace
PCBUs must eliminate the risk if it’s reasonably practicable. For example, isocyanate paints can be eliminated from the workplace by replacing them with water-based paints.
If elimination isn’t reasonably practicable, minimise worker exposure to these products. Examples for silica dust are to fit extraction systems or use water suppression systems.
Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
If a risk to health still remains, supply RPE to workers. Make sure they know why they need to wear it, how to use it and that it fits properly.
RPE should not be the sole method of reducing risk. It must be used alongside other minimisation controls.
Fit test the RPE
Fit testing is very important. RPE works if it forms a seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth. Fit testing is conducted by trained specialists. Your safety gear supplier can help you locate one.
Monitor workers’ exposure to airborne contaminants to check the levels of dust, vapour or fumes being created. Always consider if those levels can be further reduced. Exposure monitoring can help you find out if workers are being exposed to a hazard at harmful levels or detect whether the controls you have in place for that hazard are adequate.
Monitor workers’ lung health annually. This also helps you know whether the controls are working, and may detect early symptoms of work-related ill-health.
Information and training
Make sure workers know about the health risks and controls for airborne contaminants. ‘Toolbox talks’ can be useful here.
Make sure workers understand the risks, what they need to do to protect themselves, and why it’s important to take part in exposure and health monitoring.