Air Pollution at Work

Why do we want to do something about air quality at work?

Air pollution causes lung and heart disease and cancer. It is not just in the obvious places but can poisoning all work areas inside and outside the workplace. Most of our work places are badly ventilated and even where they arent pollution from outside infects our inside spaces. see Hazards Magazine article AIR FORCE | Air pollution should not be all in a day’s work

What was the case study?

Logistics Firm using refrigerated diesel HGVs, moving goods between the site and a refrigerated warehouse. Concern of exposure to workers to air pollution.

What happened?

The union reps monitored the warehouse and vehicle maintenance unit for two pollutants - nitrogen dioxide and small respirable PM2.5 particles using a monitor borrowed from TUCAN (Trade Union Clean Air Network) and Global Action Plan.

Workers were asked to list their activities in a diary. After 2 weeks of monitoring the results were analysed and presented.

What were the results and action taken?

The exercise flagged up some PM2.5 spikes. One was identified as due to a heating fan recirculating dust. The fan was switched off, serviced and new filters were fitted within 24 hours. A £75,000 tender was put out for a new extractor system.

The monitoring equipment found that the PM2.5 levels in some areas were three times the WHO (World Health Organisation's) air quality guidelines. Nitrogen dioxide levels were also above WHO levels - a pollutant associated with diesel exhaust fume.

Once problems were identified, preventive measures were introduced. These included:

Lorries had idling cutouts already, but there were fumes from the red diesel powering the refrigeration units running continuously when parked outside. This was reduced by thermostat cut-outs and red diesel is being phased out in the longer term.

The company are trialing liquid nitrogen and electric freezer units and HGVs. The plans by major cities to introduce Air Quality Zones make this an added priority.

The monitoring made everyone more aware of the level of pollution which although is generally invisible is very harmful.

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