What causes the most common work-related lung disease?

Would it surprise you to know that the most common work-related lung disease in the United States is asthma? Occupational asthma is a real problem. And, as we’ve seen in our work with manufacturing operations, this chronic disease is a serious concern for these workers.

Yellow Respirator

By Bruce Richardson, Commercial Lines Account Executive

Asthma can be more serious than you might think. It's usually recurring and long term. The symptoms range from coughing to critical difficulty breathing that requires emergency treatment. Yet the risk of asthma is often not given the attention it deserves - perhaps because it seems more common and you don't often hear about the more serious effects of the disease.

Manufacturing workers are at serious risk of occupational asthma.

People who work in manufacturing are exposed more frequently - sometimes daily - to the types of allergens and irritants that lead to occupational asthma. They're more at risk because they're breathing in things like fumes and vapors, dust, chemicals and powders. Even the powder from latex gloves can be a problem.

There are over 250 substances that could put people at risk. That's a lot. In an industry like manufacturing, we see the best approach as protecting workers from all types of dust or fumes they might breathe in.

Those that take asthma seriously are protecting workers and their business.

When your employees' health suffers, your productivity likely suffers, too. Asthma attacks can be so severe, the employee can't continue working. So yes, you want to protect workers because its' the right thing to do - but it's also a financial requisite.  

The good news - it can be as simple as following the right procedures. Of course, it's not good enough to just create procedures; you have to make sure people are following them. Implementing safety measures has been shown to reduce symptoms of asthma even if workers have already been exposed.

If you're not familiar with OSHA's standards and guidelines, spend some time with this website about dealing with occupational asthma.

You can get more information about occupational asthma from the CDC and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Occupational asthma is one of those things that we see too often in the risk management industry that can be avoided with the right steps.