Safety month: Clean Air. Clear Lungs.

Safety month: Clean Air. Clear Lungs.

This years’ Safe Work Month campaign “Clean Air. Clear Lungs” is run by Safe Work Australia and aims to raise awareness of occupational lung diseases.

Introduction to occupational lung diseases

Occupational lung diseases are work-related lung conditions of the respiratory system. If a person is exposed to a hazard at their workplace, such as dusts, gases, fumes, vapours, mists, or microorganisms they are at risk for developing a disease. These hazards are airborne contaminants which are potentially harmful substances that are either not naturally in the air or are present in an unnaturally high concentration and to which workers may be exposed in their working environment.

Occupational lung diseases include a broad range of lung diseases that may be acute, sub-acute or chronic, and either malignant, non-malignant, or infectious in nature.

Who is at risk?

Workers in high-risk industries include construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and those who work with engineered stone. Workers within these industries may breathe in hazardous dusts, gases, fumes, mists or microorganisms or vapours that can cause occupational lung diseases.

How to reduce the risks in the workplace...

1) Identify and assess the hazard

Protect workers from breathing in hazardous substances by identifying if there are any hazardous substances at your workplace. You can do this by looking at your workplace, talking with your workers, reading product labels and safety data sheets, talking with your WHS regulator, or engaging a professional hygienist.

Once you have identified the hazard, undertake a risk assessment to consider what could happen if your workers are exposed to the hazardous substance and the likelihood of it happening.

2) Eliminate and manage the risks

Implement control measures to manage the risk of breathing in hazardous substances.

Eliminating the risk of breathing in hazardous substances must always be considered first. This includes using products or materials that don’t contain the hazardous substance and eliminating the need to undertake the task that releases the hazardous substance into the air.

Substitution controls involve replacing the hazard with something safer, for example using products or materials with lower levels of the hazardous substance.

Engineering controls involve using a physical control measure, such as a mechanical device or process, for example using wet cutting, local exhaust ventilation and on-tool ventilation.

The Dustless Carbide Drill Bits (pictured above) are designed specifically for this purpose. The vacuum drill bit enables dust-free drilling by removing the dust at the point of origin. When used with an M class vacuum 98% of the drill dust is immediately removed when produced at the tip of the drill. To see more on this product, click here.

Isolation controls involve isolating the hazard from people, for example completing the task that releases the hazardous substance in an enclosed well-ventilated space that is separated from people.

Reducing the risk of a hazardous substance becoming airborne is important. Protection products such as Spill Kits, Particle Absorbents, Spill Containment and Wastewater Treatment play a significant role in the prevention and control of hazardous spillages. To explore our range of environmental protection products, click here.

Administrative. If you’ve worked through the hierarchy of control measures and risk remains, you must minimise the risk by implementing administrative controls. Controls include planning tasks to minimise the quantity of the hazardous substance being released into the air, establishing policies about working with the hazardous substance and clean up requirements, and installing signage alerting people of the risks involved and how to minimise them.

Personal protective equipment. Personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, does not control the risk at the source. PPE should therefore only be considered after implementing the substitution, isolation, engineering, and administrative controls mentioned above. You should use PPE to supplement higher-level control measures.

To see our range of PPE, click here.

3) Monitor and review

Implementing measures for controlling hazardous substances aren’t simply ‘set and forget’. Monitor and review them on a regular basis to make sure they are still effective and are working as intended.

For more information, advice and guidance on this and other workplace topics, please visit Safe Work Australia (link). If you would like to speak to one of our team, please contact your nearest branch.


Quick reference points:

Safe Work Australia (link), Dustless drilling (link), Environmental protection (link), PPE (link)