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Controlling exposures to prevent occupational lung disease in the construction industry

Guides & Factsheets At BOHS, we believe that construction employers - managers and supervisors - have a key role to play in minimising health r

Trade Fact Sheets

A series of dowloadable PDF files.  To see who's doing what well, and how, there are a range of materials which demonstrate good practice. 

We have 20 fact sheets each highlighting the main hazards, highest risks and preferred control options for all the key construction trades.

The Business Case for Prevention

A brief summary presenting evidence that good occupational hygiene is not only the right and ethical thing to do thing to do, but good for business.

The BOHS Directory of Occupational Hygiene Services

This is the definitive list of UK companies able to provide qualified and experienced occupational hygienists and specialist occupational hygiene support services.
Take a look here


RPE Factsheet on
Facial hair

A PDF download that outlines facts & best practice for the use of Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) when issued as a means of control to prevent the inhalation of hazardous substances at work where users have facial hair.

Protecting workers' health in construction -
information sheet.

This Downloadable Leaflet provides a summary of the relationship between Occupation Hygiene, Occupational Health and Wellbeing with specific reference to the construction industry

What can an occupational hygienist help with?

Managing health risks in the workplace may require input from different health professionals.  The purpose of the diagram below is to show where an occupational hygienist may be able to help

Event Powerpoint Presentations

A repositry for much requested Powerpoint presentations given at conferences, roadshows and other events by speakers from BOHS, HSE and other companies & organisations.


Best Practice Case Studies

Supporting case studies from actual construction projects which show real benefits from control solutions putting occupational hygiene into a construction site context.

A Summary of the Breathe Freely Campaign.

A condensed summary of the issues and potential solutions and shows how we can instigate the change to a contract for health.  The case for why we should treat health like safety

Occupational hygienists have the knowledge and skills to help you protect your employees .

A3 Supporter banner with lung disease infographic

Infographic in the form of a printable pdf. Contains useful facts and figures


Control exposure and breathe freely


Occupational hygiene is about recognising, evaluating and controlling risks to health in the workplace.  Occupational hygienists have the knowledge and skills to help you protect your employees. Let’s get going by deciding to manage health like safety.


The downloadable pdf below gives a condensed summary of the issues and potential solutions and shows how we can instigate the change to a contract for health.


Click to download

The Construction Dust Partnership


The Construction Dust Partnership (CDP) is an industry collaboration directly involving many organisations, including the HSE.

It aims to raise awareness within the construction industry about lung diseases related to hazardous workplace dust and to promote good practice to prevent these diseases, particularly for those undertaking high risk tasks.


link to the site

Recognise, evaluate, control and breathe freely


1. Recognise the hazards and breathe freely

All construction workers could to be exposed to some, many or all of the following:

  • Diesel exhaust fumes
  • Silica dust
  • Wood and other dusts
  • Asbestos
  • Welding fume
  • Legionella and other biological agents
  • Solvents
  • Isocyanates, epoxy and other resin vapours and mists

These aren't the only dusts and chemical hazards you'll find on a construction site (or in any workplace), there are many others. There are also physical hazards like noise, vibration, heat and light and radiation, and manual handling and other ergonomic issues.  But these are some of the substances which we know cause lung diseases. Serious, debilitating, irreversible, life-limiting and in some cases fatal lung diseases. Like lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis (eg. asbestosis, silicosis), asthma, pulmonary oedema, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.


2. Evaluate the risks and breathe freely.

Not every risk to health is a high risk. Low level exposures to some harmful substances may cause only temporary ill-effects or none at all.  But any exposure, even at the minutest levels, to other substances can lead to debilitating or chronic diseases. Some substances are hazardous only if exposure to them happens over a long time; others cause ill-health immediately, or lead to worsening symptoms if exposure continues.  Risks can also be made negligible or increased depending on the workplace environment, the work tasks involved, the methods of working, all things which can affect exposures.

Many respiratory hazards cannot be seen by the naked eye. And many ill-health effects don’t appear until many years later. Often, published workplace exposure limits and guidance surrounding known hazards can provide the information you need to assess the health risk.  Sometimes though, only specialist exposure monitoring techniques, like air or biological monitoring, can determine the level of risk for particular workers to particular diseases.

There are a multitude of construction trades, all facing a combination of different levels of different health risks, all of the time. It’s clear that not everybody on site everywhere understands this.  But we do.


3. Control exposure and breathe freely.


When you understand the health hazards and have evaluated the risks, then you’re in a position to effectively control exposures.

This might mean sourcing different products and materials in the first place, changing work methods and habits, segregating work areas, implementing engineering controls like dust extraction tools and ventilation, and introducing PPE.

It should also mean training and communication, supervision, maintenance and testing of controls and on-going monitoring.  A good control method becomes a poor one if it’s broken or not used.




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