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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Quarry workers five times more likely to die from COPD

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HSENI workshops highlight the importance of taking protective measures to prevent lung disease

A QUARRY worker is five times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than a worker in the general population. This shocking statistic was recently communicated during 12 workshops delivered by HSENI inspectors to the quarrying industry across Northern Ireland.

Hosted by the industry and supported by the Mineral Products Association and the Institute of Quarrying, the workshops were part of Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland’s focus on occupational health in the quarry industry and highlighted the potential for quarry workers to be robbed of their old age and retirement.

Approximately150 quarry workers from around 80 quarries attended the workshops, where they were instructed on the importance of taking protective measures to look after their lungs.

Whilst COPD is the main killer, other respiratory diseases can stem from exposure to dust, such as silicosis and lung cancer, and can impact on other vital organs. Safeguarding health requires co-operation between the employer and employee with health surveillance and good communication between both parties being essential.

HSENI principal inspector Ken Logan said: ‘Industry has been working on the preparation of a strategy to deal with dust and limit the exposure to the workforce. It is now time to have these strategies fully implemented.

‘The headline above is clearly not acceptable and more needs to be done to reduce the incidence of ill health. With the help of the industry, the challenge is to turn this around within the next two years.’

HSENI will be launching an inspection initiative early next year where its inspectors will be carrying out site visits to ensure effective strategies are being implemented by the industry.

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