‘Time to Breathe’ Campaign Launches to Highlight Occupational Air Pollution Risk
- Date: Tuesday 19th March 2019
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The British Safety Council has joined forces with environmental and health campaign groups to launch its “Time to breathe” campaign, which aims to draw the attention of employers, policy-makers and regulators to the risks of air pollution to the health of outdoor workers.
Launched with a publicity event at Oxford Circus on 12 March, it will provide free resources, including posters and advice, for workers and employers to use in making changes to reduce their exposure to harmful air pollution.
The campaign also encourages employers to deploy the “Canairy” smartphone app, which will send users in London location-specific data on the levels of air pollution they are exposed to on an hour by hour basis, and whether their exposure is likely to breach World Health Organisation limits.
The BSC hopes that the app will allow employers with outdoor workers, such as local authorities, construction businesses and courier companies, to make operational decisions on rotating staff, offering breaks or using barriers, based on their exposures.
The app draws on data from the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map operated by King’s College London, mapping this against the worker’s location as calculated by GPS. The LAQN measures the concentration of nitrogen dioxide, particulates and ozone.
The app has been adopted by Thames Tideway and Kier Local Authority Highways, which have received the first batches of data from the app and are currently processing it.
Kier has so far rolled the app out to project managers and supervisors working on highways contracts for Transport for London and local authorities and sees gaining more information on its workers’ exposure as part of its occupational health and wellbeing agenda.
Lawrence Waterman, chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “Our campaign will highlight every employer’s duty of care for the risks from ambient air pollution. The regulator (HSE) tells us that it doesn’t regulate the ambient environment, and the recent Clean Air Strategy had little or nothing to say about people who spend their working lives outdoors. These workers are caught in a blind spot and we think their health is at risk.
“By working with King’s College London and our members, we have been able to bring technology and business together to raise awareness of the dangers from air pollution to outdoors workers. We want employers to use the information as part of their consultations with their workers and work together to reduce their exposure.
“We are calling on London-based employers to join those trialling Canairy and help us build an accurate picture of the exposure faced by outdoor workers. This information will be a cornerstone of future campaigns for better research into the links between occupation and health data.
"Given that we don’t even know how many outdoor workers there are in the UK, we need those authorities with responsibility for our health and environment to work together on this issue."
Mitesh Solanki, managing director for Kier Local Authority Highways, commented: “At Kier, the health and wellbeing of our workforce is our number one priority and I’m really pleased that our LoHAC (London Highway Alliance) contract with TfL was the first to trial Canairy.
“This proactive approach to utilising the latest technology will help us reduce our people’s exposure to air pollution, which is a serious concern for all responsible employers.”
Air pollution is linked up to 36,000 early deaths a year, is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health. In 2013, International Agency for Research on Cancer classified diesel exhaust as carcinogenic to humans.