The British Safety Council has launched a campaign for air pollution to be officially recognised as an occupational health hazard for construction workers and others who worked outdoors.

Among the measures it is calling for is the adoption of a workplace exposure limit for diesel engine exhaust emissions.

Air pollution is linked with up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK. It is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health. Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. Ambient air pollution is linked to cancer, lung and heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infertility and early dementia.

The British Safety Council has launched a report ‘Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’ which provides evidence to recognise ambient air pollution as an occupational health hazard in Britain. In the report, the charity presents the demands that spearhead its campaign to limit the dangers of air pollution to the health of outdoor workers.

Several pilot schemes are beginning to monitor and measure the levels of air pollution experienced by people working and living in London. Their findings will be instrumental in developing recommendations for reducing people’s exposure to air pollution in the capital. 

However, the government and regulatory bodies such as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) continue to show a lack of interest in regulation and guidance on air pollution, the British Safety Council says. 

In March 2019, the council launched its Time to Breathe campaign, which is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, a mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it. It has been created in co-operation with King’s College London. Canairy draws on the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map at King’s and the user’s GPS to calculate an individual’s exposure to pollution on an hourly basis. 

The new report ‘Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’ is the next step in the campaign. It gathers available evidence about the causes and consequences of air pollution in Britain. It also reviews international examples of initiatives set up to measure air pollution in different locations and their recommendations for risk reduction.